West Ham's awkward marriage of convenience with failing David Moyes
LONDON -- The soft-focus video released on social media on Tuesday morning announced what was already known: David Moyes will be West Ham United's manager for the rest of this season.
"I'm really looking forward to meeting supporters," he said, holding up a claret and blue shirt, but the London Stadium looks like the last chance for him and potentially for his new club. West Ham are 18th, and relegation would be disastrous.
Having resigned from Sunderland in June after being relegated from the Premier League, Moyes is on a run of failure -- with Manchester United and Real Sociedad also parting company with him in recent years. Though his 11 years of stability at Everton from 2002-2013 deserve recognition, there is serious doubt over his appointment in East London.
"If he had come to West Ham on the back of Everton, we would have been happy," Paul Christmas, chairman of West Ham United Supporters Club, told ESPN FC. "Everton were definitely a team to aspire to back then."
West Ham need only look to Sunderland and Aston Villa, clubs of comparable size struggling with life in the Championship and dwindling finances, to see what relegation can bring. Moyes was cheap and available, but a cut-price, easy deal would be a ruinous false economy if West Ham go down.
The deal was done quickly over the weekend. Communication lines were open with Moyes through Tony Henry, head of player recruitment, who worked alongside him at Everton, and who assists David Sullivan in the co-chairman's overseeing of the football side of the business. Chris Woods, who worked as goalkeeper coach at both Everton and United, was another link in the chain.
As ESPN FC sources were told of Slaven Bilic's imminent departure on Saturday evening during the Hammers' 4-1 defeat to Liverpool with Moyes lined up, criticism rained down on social media, where Sullivan, co-chairman David Gold and vice-chairman Baroness Karren Brady are all highly active.
But there was no turning back and Bilic was sacked on Monday before Moyes was announced the following morning, taking his first training session at the club's Rush Green facility. A reported move to bring Stuart Pearce back to the club he served as a veteran left-back from 1999 to 2001 appears an attempt to make a fans' favourite part of an immediately unpopular new regime.
Fans forum Knees Up Mother Brown ran a poll on Monday in which 96 percent of fans said they would have preferred Alan Pardew, sacked by a previous regime in December 2006, instead of Moyes.
"I think Pardew would have been the most acceptable choice," Hammers fan Nigel Kahn told ESPN FC. "But I will give Moyes my backing. Thanks a lot, Slaven. Go on, Dave, let's see we can do -- though his football doesn't set the world alight."
Moyes, after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Sam Allardyce at Sunderland, is acquainted with being unpopular compared to his predecessors. West Ham fans like swagger and attacking play from their managers, qualities Bilic brought in the 2015-16 season, the final year at Upton Park, only for him to lose his way after moving to the London Stadium. And Bilic stayed personable to the last, as opposed to the prickly shell Moyes retreated into both at Old Trafford and the Stadium of Light.
Moyes made his reputation by forging Everton into "The People's Club" but at Sunderland, a club with a similar working class ethos to West Ham, the public turned against him. After declaring after the second match of the season that Sunderland were set for a season-long relegation battle, Moyes -- admittedly hamstrung by owner Ellis Short locking away the chequebook -- failed to alter the mood.
The fear is that West Ham, still wrestling with the upheaval of life in their new stadium, won't be refreshed by a manager who proved so morose in his last appointment. So will this go down as a desperate marriage of convenience with an ownership unable to attract grander managerial names?
"West Ham have never had a showstopper manager," said Christmas. "A Rafa Benitez, a Carlo Ancelotti or a Roberto Mancini, we have never had that strength, that colossus in charge of our football team."
When the club was readying itself to move to its new premises, there was talk of Champions League football, with 20,000-plus of extra capacity pushing West Ham to the next level, but to fans like Kahn and Christmas, Moyes is a sideways step for an ownership without the finances or vision to provide that type of growth.
"They changed the manager to get the fans on board," said Kahn. "In Moyes they have taken another gamble; they are gambling on people now, after gambling on the stadium move."
Moyes' calls for unity in the club's announcement of his appointment were pointed. "We need the support, we need everybody with us," he said. "West Ham supporters are a very passionate group, and we need them behind us."
He finds himself at a club struggling with its identity -- and he must rediscover the manager he used to be at Everton.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.