Not so long ago David Moyes was ‘The Chosen One’. Hyperbole aside, the Scot’s stock was high in 2013, he had achieved a great deal at Everton without technically achieving anything (a feat in itself) and having the backing of Sir Alex Ferguson – among the greatest managers in the history of the game – was a glowing endorsement as he stepped in at Manchester United. The stage was set for him to step up and make the progression that British managers bemoan never falls their way. And yet three years later, he was unveiled as the Sunderland boss.
It was quite the fall from grace. Conspiracy theorists will point at ‘Fergie’ leaving him with a squad destined to fail, thus saving his legacy, while others will say it was the impossible job. These factors both have enough evidence upon which to draw arguments, but perhaps Moyes didn’t have the right mentality to truly succeed, which seems to be the case at Sunderland.
From the very off he has been a beaten man. From admitting that his side were in a relegation battle as early as August to bemoaning a lack of money with which to work with in the transfer market in the run up to January, the excuses were out early doors from the 53-year-old. Yes, he may be right on both fronts, but what good is being correct in this instance? What extent of this was self-fulfilling?
In Moyes’ defence, Sunderland were rather set up to fail and odds-on to go down with bet365 from the off. The Black Cats had been the Premier League’s limpet club for much of the past five years, desperately clinging on to safety with late surges of form papering the cracks of an overall lack of quality and some unwise investment in on-pitch talent. In the background the Adam Johnson saga still hung like a dark cloud over the club, while owner Ellis Short’s apparent growing disillusionment had grown in obviousness as the seasons have passed. As was the case when he took the Man United job, Moyes was in a difficult position, but he’s done little to battle against the tide and relegation will be his reward.
From getting the band back together with moves for the likes of Steven Pienaar, Joleon Lescott and Darron Gibson to spending what little cash he had on Papy Djilobodji (£8m), Donald Love and Paddy McNair (a combined £5.5m), the transfer equivalent of a waving white flag was held aloft above the Stadium of Light early doors. It was all over before it really began, as shown by the club’s almost constant presence in the bottom three for the entire campaign.
Staying on seems impossible too. The Sunderland fanbase have turned on their manager in great numbers as the weeks have passed as the reality of heading back to the Championship hits home, while you have to question whether or not the repeated blows of his Old Trafford disaster, Spanish adventure at Real Sociedad – where one of his most notable incidents was eating a crisp in the stands – and the dismal Wearside comeback tour have broken his spirit.
Moyes will surely argue he’s as defiant as ever, backed up by his desire to delve into the second-tier with the North East side, but maybe he needs to be put out of his misery when the season ends – if it ever even begun for Sunderland.