David Moyes exclusive interview: West Ham vision one year into the job

“I am enjoying being back,” David Moyes tells Sky Sports. “The people here are good and the players have been great. We have got a really good team spirit at West Ham now. It is something that maybe in the past might not have been talked about, but the spirit is good.

“Winning games does that and our form from last season after lockdown and the way we have started this season, you would have to say it has been a big improvement. I can only put that down to the players and their mentality. They are much fitter now and the introduction of three or four new players to the squad has made a big difference.”

Moyes is too modest to say it but his return has made a big difference too. West Ham had lost nine of their previous 12 games and were just one point above the relegation zone when he arrived at the halfway stage of last season. One year on, having kept the team up, Moyes has West Ham in the top half of the Premier League. Optimism has returned.

Aaron Cresswell puts it down to better organisation, while Arthur Masuaku talks of the clarity that he has brought to the club. Declan Rice says he brings the best out in players. Jarron Bowen credits the regular feedback for helping him to improve his game.

A recurring theme is that lockdown, for all the strain it put on people emotionally and economically, allowed for an essential period of introspection at West Ham.

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“There was a lot of coming together because of the difficulties, what was going to happen to the staff, what was going to happen to the players,” Moyes explains. “Behind the scenes everyone was very good. The club were good in how they tried to do things correctly.

“I think as a manager being a part of that helped me integrate very quickly again with the players. From that moment on, it gave me a chance to communicate better with them.”

There were many one-to-one virtual meetings. Bridges were built, bonds were forged. “Suddenly, everything was not quite so rushed. They all went on a fitness regime.”

Even when the players did return to the training ground, initially, they were working individually under the guidance of the manager – coming in one at a time. “It was like a conveyor belt of players coming through every 45 minutes,” recalls Moyes.

“It was important because it gave me a good opportunity to really get to know the players, have contact with them and see how their fitness was and where they were mentally.”

The reset worked. And West Ham was a club in need of one. Significant sums had been spent in recent years, but even as the new signings came, that sense of direction was lost.

“I think it is about changing the perception of West Ham,” says Moyes.

“I am trying to move away from the thought that we are going to bring people in at the end of their careers, they will have a couple of good years, enjoy living in London and then they leave and we have got nothing out of it. I want to change that cycle.

“It was a bit similar when I first came in at Everton. I had to break that cycle there too. There were a lot of stunningly talented players but they were not there for the long term.”



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Moyes’ reference to Everton might seem curious in one respect – he was appointed there some 18 years ago now. But it is also easy to understand why it remains so relevant.

For the 57-year-old Scot, there has followed that chastening experience at Manchester United, a stint in San Sebastian with Real Sociedad, the disappointment of relegation with Sunderland and his first dalliance with West Ham. But bringing up one year in the job this time around will be the first time since Everton that he has made that anniversary.

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Longevity suits his strengths. He is a builder, not a firefighter. When he talks of West Ham being an oil tanker that needs turning around it is easy to appreciate that it cannot be done quickly. He wants to focus on the foundations, putting in much-needed processes.

Changing the culture of the club’s recruitment is a big part of that.

“I want to have a long-term vision. I want to have a vision that looks forward and not always to the short term. I think I have done that here. I have wanted to bring players to West Ham with the mindset that they are going to be here for the next four to six years or maybe they are that good that we will have to sell them on before that because there is resale value.

“But I want to build a West Ham for the long term because I see so much potential and room for it to improve. The first thing was to get stability and a side that is not near the bottom three because when you are worrying about relegation you are always buying players to get you through that situation. We want to start planning for the future.”

Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen proved astute signings last January. “Not only did they help keep us up they have gone on to become very accomplished Premier League players.”

The arrivals of Vladimir Coufal and Said Benrahma in the summer mirror those acquisitions – a Czech player from Slavia Prague and a highly-rated performer from the Championship.

“I always think the first place to look should be the Championship because so many of them adjust so well. But when the market becomes expensive and you do not have a lot of funds, you have to go further afield to find the players who can make a difference too.”

The backgrounds of the four men are not identical, but what they all have in common is that joining West Ham represents the biggest challenge of their careers so far. That is crucial.

“It is about having hungry players with a humility to understand it is not just about them, it is about everybody, so you have to do the work. Look after everybody on and off the pitch.

“We are not really interested in big egos. Maybe in the future. Maybe if and when we are right at the top, we will need players with an ego, big characters. But at the moment we have a building process going on at this football club and we are not there yet.”

Clearly, there will be challenges ahead. Monday’s harsh 3-0 defeat to Chelsea offered a reminder of that. The team is still evolving, Moyes still searching for the best formation for this group of players, having reverted to a back four following an injury to Masuaku.

“We need to be flexible. After lockdown we played a version of 4-3-3 and it was successful. We went to five and scored a lot of goals. I hope that we can play both formations.”

But, finally, for the first time in a while, there is a sense that West Ham is a club changing for the better, building something that might be more sustainable. When Moyes talks of “younger, hungrier, more energetic players” it will surely resonate with supporters.

“I want people to think the London Stadium is a good place to watch football,” he concludes. “I want people to enjoy it but for that to happen we need a good team.”

One year on, the West Ham oil tanker is moving in the right direction.

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