IAN HERBERT: Will David Moyes be haunted by his words at his first West Ham press conference back in 2017? Plus why fans should be careful what they wish for with Graham Potter

For many who were there on Sunday, it felt like the end. The tried and tested aspects of a David Moyes football team – its robust functionality and dependable solidity – vanishing in plain sight. Eight months on from the indelible memories of European glory and Moyes’ celebration dance in a Prague dressing room, West Ham supporters stared into the concrete beneath their seats at half-time, trying to come to terms with the way Arsenal were eviscerating their team.

Some inside West Ham feel that there’s no way back from this 6-0 home defeat. That the players are no longer with Moyes. That the club need the imagination and flair of ‘a new Roberto De Zerbi.’ Graham Potter, perhaps. Out of work and very much available.

To me, that seems a very curious kind of logic, given that De Zerbi – the apparently model manager – has navigated Brighton to ninth position in the Premier League this season, while West Ham sit… eighth. For a third successive year, the knock-out stages of a European tournament lie ahead. Springtime in Istanbul, Braga or perhaps Lisbon.

Delve into the numbers, and you’ll find something to deconstruct the idea that it’s all been grey, solid, dull football with Moyes and West Ham – whatever the current goal difference metric might say. The club have scored more goals per game in his second spell at the helm than any under manager in the Premier League era – even the much-loved Slaven Bilic. Only Bilic managed more goals per game than Moyes in his first spell.

Some inside West Ham feel there is no way back for David Moyes from the 6-0 hammering against Arsenal – but he has taken this often-chaotic club to great heights 

Fans deserted the London Stadium in their droves with West Ham 4-0 down at half-time against Arsenal on Sunday

Fans deserted the London Stadium in their droves with West Ham 4-0 down at half-time against Arsenal on Sunday

It is curious logic for people to think West Ham need Roberto De Zerbi when Brighton are below them in the table

It is curious logic for people to think West Ham need Roberto De Zerbi when Brighton are below them in the table

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And then there are the heights to which he has taken this often-chaotic club. West Ham had managed three top seven finishes in the entire Premier League era before Moyes arrived. Under him, they’ve achieved two. A mere 47 days ago, they beat Arsenal at the Emirates, having just sent Manchester United packing. Yet, for all that, he is currently third in the sack race odds.

Some on the outside feel glee. There’s been a prurient national fascination about how much criticism Moyes can take, ever since those excruciating ten months at Manchester United more than a decade ago, though he has resilience. An extraordinary resilience, actually.

Arsenal’s biggest Premier League away win on Sunday eclipsed the 6-1 defeat inflicted on Moyes’ Everton in the first weekend of the 2009/10 season. Moyes – in the midst of a very public war over Manchester City’s moves to take Joleon Lescott at the time – was pictured with head in hands as his side shipped their third. A poor start to the season certainly wasn’t terminal for that Everton team, who lost two out of their last 24 games. They could overcome bad runs and big defeats because of the culture he instilled – fielding good characters who could withstand the very worst of time times.

That resilience was always a part of the furniture at Goodison, where he made Everton ‘the People’s Club’, to quote an expression he used, off the cuff, at his first press conference there, more than 20 years back. To this day, those words have adorned one of Goodison Park’s exterior walls. Moyes and that club – that city – were such a fit.

When he first took the West Ham job, he believed that kind of bond was transferrable. He arrived on a six-month contract at a club which was transparently failing under Bilic and spoke of the need to make the players ‘cry’ with sheer physical effort. It was what West Ham needed. They could not so much as defend, at that time.

Yet I remember something slightly discordant about the press conference at London Stadium that November day in 2017. Moyes – whose smile seemed a bit stuck on at times – discussed his utilitarian work ethic in front of a cast iron montage of words once used to describe the experience of watching Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters glide to victory — ‘wishing through bated breath, the scene set for folklore’.

He would deliver more than supporters could conceivably have imagined – keeping West Ham in the Premier League; watching Manuel Pellegrini take his own job and enjoy a £200million transfer kitty to boot; implacably returning to restore the pragmatism, quest for value and work ethic which have always been fundamental to his management.

But an observation Moyes made in that inaugural press conference was more significant than we knew at the time. ‘If style is more important than winning, then I’ll find out from the fans when I take to the job,’ he said. His inference being that results transcended a football aesthetic.

Moyes and Everton were such a fit; one of his quotes, 'the People's Club', still adorns an exterior wall of Goodison Park

Moyes and Everton were such a fit; one of his quotes, ‘the People’s Club’, still adorns an exterior wall of Goodison Park

When Moyes first arrived at West Ham in 2017, he implied that results transcend style - but style matters more to Hammers fans than to most

When Moyes first arrived at West Ham in 2017, he implied that results transcend style – but style matters more to Hammers fans than to most

Firing Moyes because of one bad afternoon would be an unmitigated folly after his successes

Supporters should be careful of what they wish for in Graham Potter, a Pro Licence coach lacking much personal charisma

Supporters should be careful of what they wish for in Graham Potter, a Pro Licence coach lacking much personal charisma

Style matters more to West Ham supporters than to most. A style of football, in keeping with the memory of the 1966 World Cup heroes whose statue still stands on Green Street, Upton Park. A style of manager who, with personality and flair, can unite a demanding fan base and give them something beautiful to behold. It’s why they loved the bones of Harry Redknapp and, for a long time, Bilic, too. It’s why Moyes doesn’t fit as he did at Goodison.

Supporters should be careful what they wish for in Potter – a Pro Licence coach lacking much personal charisma who is no more a fit for them than Moyes is. It feels like a change of manager will bring new peril and fresh jeopardy to this club, who are not the richest. It feels like Moyes deserves a far longer credit line and greater appreciation, for football with the frippery and the dreaded ‘philosophy’ taken out. For ensuring that the London Stadium and joy are not mutually exclusive.

‘I hope it is a long stay – long enough for both of us to be happy,’ Moyes said that November day at West Ham’s stadium, as a brilliant sunlight bathed the room. The latter stages of his managerial career seem to have been a constant process of proving people wrong – coming back – and the aftermath of last Sunday’s brings that necessity once more. Bitter complaint about that performance is entirely reasonable. So, too, the decision many took to spare themselves exposure to the entire annihilation and leave before the end. But firing a good man and outstanding professional because of one very bad afternoon? That would be an act of unmitigated folly.

Thanks for many messages from those who support their grandchildren’s teams from the sidelines, which, as I wrote here a few weeks back, is a new experience for me. Saturday brought an 8-3 defeat for ‘our’ football team. All part of the rich experience – learning how to lose as well as win. Which I hope I’m doing. 

I'm grateful to 'very proud grandma' Janet Harris for sending this picture which seems to encapsulate the joy that sport brings to our children

I’m grateful to ‘very proud grandma’ Janet Harris for sending this picture which seems to encapsulate the joy that sport brings to our children 

I’m grateful to ‘very proud grandma’ Janet Harris for sending this picture which seems to encapsulate the joy that sport brings to our children, with William, Sam and James kitted out and ready for action, and little Rose looking on. Thanks to Tom, their dad, for permission to share it. Let me know about your experiences of watching and supporting the kids – games, goals, pitches, resources. And good luck to those supporting this weekend.

‘Be careful,’ I tell my daughter, before she plays rugby and with infinite patience she always says ‘yes.’ 

Yet risk resides in the most unexpected places. She and her friends were watching England v Wales in a London pub last weekend when one of the TV screens fell off its bracket and came crashing down on top of them. 

The pub offered them free Guinness for the rest of the afternoon by way of apology. Sore heads in more ways than one.

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