When David Moyes was a professional football player, he was already thinking about going into management. At 22 he was already taking his coaching badges, paying close attention to his various managers’ tactics to prepare himself for life in the dugout.
During his final years as a player with Preston North End, Moyes was also a coach and worked his way up to be Gary Peters’ assistant. He then succeeded Peters in January 1998 as Preston boss at the age of 34. His first game in charge came against Macclesfield Town in an Auto Windscreens Shield second-round clash, which his side won 1-0.
A full 1,097 games later, Moyes has experienced the biggest triumph of his career, something he would’ve only dreamt of as young coach: winning a European title. Moyes led West Ham United to Europa Conference League glory on Wednesday night as they prevailed 2-1 over Fiorentina thanks to a dramatic late winner from Jarrod Bowen. It was Moyes’ first major trophy as a manager and West Ham’s first major honour in 43 years.
Moyes hailed the moment as the greatest of his career but that was evident even before his post-match interview. The 60-year-old was seen running down the touchline when Bowen’s shot hit the back of the net and many people were quick to compare it to Jose Mourinho’s infamous sprint along the Old Trafford turf as Porto boss in 2004.
The West Ham boss even joked: “I couldn’t do a full Mourinho because I can’t slide on my knees. I was worried I was going to go on my belly.”
But that wasn’t even the best clip of Moyes from that incredible Wednesday evening in Prague. The footage of him sharing his triumph with his 87-year-old father was so lovely to witness.
It was an incredible moment for the Hammers coach because, as Declan Rice said, Moyes had been “tested” this season. West Ham’s underwhelming form in the Premier League had many fans calling for his exit, but Wednesday was just a shining example of why it doesn’t hurt clubs to keep faith with their managers.
After all, Moyes guided them to the Europa League semi-finals in 2021-22, eliminating the competition’s record winners Sevilla en route to the last four. He led the Hammers to back-to-back top-seven finishes between 2020 and 2021 too, rebuilding his reputation which has taken significant hits over the years.
It all started when he was chosen to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United in 2013, shoes everyone and yet no one would want to fill. His credentials took a huge blow, but for many that nightmare would’ve made it difficult for them to get back up and go again. Not Moyes. It took a long time for him to get back to a position that had him as comfortable and effective as in his Everton days. There was his interesting spell with Real Sociedad which followed and then a very forgettable spell with Sunderland which ended in Premier League relegation in 2016-17.
This was followed by his first love affair with the Hammers, whom he took from the relegation zone to safety in 2017-18, but he left at the end of his short-term contract. Within 19 months he was back at the London Stadium and, since rekindling their relationship, Moyes and West Ham have been of great benefit to one another.
He has taken them back to the European stage and delivered them a first major honour in 43 years, and they have helped him rebuild his reputation on the way to a landmark major trophy.
Moyes never wavered in his approach to football. He kept the faith that it would breed success somewhere, it has just taken him a while to find it. The former defender has overcome many hurdles in his career to get to this moment, many of which have come this year, with West Ham not having the best of campaigns in the Premier League. But that is completely overlooked now that they have won a European trophy and secured their place back in the Europa League for 2023-24.
He has had his ability as a manager questioned countless times and has been knocked down more often than most in his search for success, but those scenes in the Fortuna Arena made it all worthwhile. Moyes deserves this moment of glory and he will certainly savour every second of it. Not to mention the fact he’s cemented himself as one of West Ham’s greatest ever managers.
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