In a previous entry for Scottish Review
(8 December 2021
), I reflected on David Moyes's emergence as something of a cult figure in the East End of London. The Scot, who first managed in the Premier League over two decades ago, is now statistically, measured by win percentage, the Hammers' most successful gaffer of the Premier League era. However, an underwhelming first-half of the season – taking just 19 points from 21 games and enduring five losses on the bounce at the back-end of 2022 – has seen a growing number of supporters calling for the 'Moyesiah' to be moved on.
Despite this clamour for change, West Ham's team seem to be pulling Moyes's chestnuts out of the fire having won three games, drawn two, and lost one since Hogmanay. During this good run, David Moyes secured a small piece of history when he surpassed Harry Redknapp in having managed 642 games in the top-flight south of the border. While Arsene Wenger still tops the list having overseen 828 games, Moyes's longevity at Everton, and perhaps more impressively at West Ham, means that he now slots in behind his friend and mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, to have managed the third most Premier League matches of all time.
For those SR readers who are not avid followers of West Ham's fortunes, David Moyes has had a transformational effect over the last three years, ending the club's penchant for over-the-hill (and extraordinarily overpaid) star players and ushering in what The Times
called 'more conscientious recruitment'. As Coaches Voice
notes, Moyes's West Ham are renowned for 'their stability, organisation and compactness from their mid and low blocks' which is essential to their ability to 'counter and frustrate opponents'. Having passed 1,000 games as a manager in November 2021, Moyes stresses that his calm and collected façade disguises the fact that he is still 'really emotional and passionate and wanting to get a result'.
While David Moyes told The Times
that a renewed interest in 'management theory' has taught him to be 'more positive, a better communicator, and more approachable' than he once was, former players frequently note that the West Ham manager is a hard taskmaster. As he recently observed – much to the Claret and Blue Army's delight, given our love of workhorses like Billy Bonds, Ray Stewart and Bobby Moore – a 'typical Moyes player' is 'hard-working, honest in endeavour, [and] a team-player'.
As Graham Alexander, who played for Moyes in his first managerial job at Preston North End, recalls: 'I knew it was going to be tough because he told me it would be, but I didn't realise it was going to be tough every day… there wasn't any let-up'. Such observations suggest that Moyes would agree with Henry McLeish's sentiment that: 'I have never believed in that high-minded public-school sentiment: It isn't the winning that matters, but the taking part
Perhaps more interestingly for SR readers, like many Scots of his generation – he will turn 60 in April – David Moyes tells a compelling story about postwar Scotland. In a recent edition of Steven Bartlett's Diary of a CEO
podcast, Moyes – who was once described as a 'classic urchin-like Scottish laddie, playing football on the street during the week and in the local park on Sundays' – reflected on growing up in a tenement in Partick in the West End of Glasgow, with encouraging but not pushy parents. While David Moyes Senior has been the defining influence on his life – and still travels to West Ham games, receiving a good reception at West Ham's Europa League game in Zagreb in September 2021 – Moyes told Bartlett that he is particularly fond of childhood memories of washing, ironing and folding laundry with his mother.
While the family relocated from Partick to leafy Bearsden, Moyes frequently reflects on the importance of Glasgow to his upbringing and formation. While he is closer in age to Ferguson's eldest son, Mark, he once observed that both Sir Alex's native Govan and his boyhood home of Partick 'produce real hard working-class people, and that's how we'd both see ourselves'.
In an interview with BBC 5Live in 2013, Moyes noted that living in Glasgow meant that 'you had to look after yourself… and that didn't mean you had to be the best fighter, it just meant that you had to look after yourself – whether that was you were sharp with your tongue, meant you were a good runner, or whether it meant you could handle yourself'.
Those who have encountered Moyes at close quarters observe that he is energetic, industrious and supremely well-organised, with Mark Godfrey agreeing that he relates to Sir Alex through the 'working-class beliefs of self-discipline and hard work'. From the age of 17, Moyes's interest in coaching meant that he became a fixture, as a 'runner', at the Inverclyde National Sports Centre at Largs and, in 2018, found himself at Pennyhill Park, watching the England rugby team train and exchanging ideas with Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick.
As Mark Wotte once observed after giving a lecture on Dutch football philosophy for Premier League managers, Moyes obviously has 'an enormous urge to acquire knowledge'. One profile in Dublin's Sunday Independent
in August 2004 noted that Moyes typically spends his summers as 'a football tourist' watching European teams to ensure that his hands-on style and emphasis on physical fitness continues to be allied to the most up-to-date coaching sessions.
While Moyes's staff agree that he fits what Simon Kuper calls the 'tradition of Glaswegian managers – working all hours', his upbringing in Glasgow means that he is also part of what Georgina Brewis has described as a nationwide 'volunteering movement', which the expansion of state welfare provision from the early 20th century relied on to 'deliver, manage and modify such services'.
In his contribution to My Scotland
in 2015, Moyes recalled that his father's work in the shipyards, his teaching at Anniesland College, and coaching of Drumchapel Amateurs meant that the family was 'embedded in volunteer work'.
In this period of 'too much, too soon' for many young footballers, David Moyes is a reassuringly grounded and earthy example of Scotland's postwar footballing prowess. As Jim Spence argued in Holyrood
this week, sport is as 'crucial a component of Scottishness as the arts, theatre, or music, and it transcends class'.
While his critics frequently highlight that Moyes has never won a major trophy in his nearly three decades in club management, I would argue that the most important lesson of his career is that his distinctly Scottish qualities – honesty, respect for others, preparedness, dedication and strength of character – are as important today as they were in postwar Glasgow.
Tom Chidwick is a contemporary historian, who splits his time between London and Edinburgh