Hated by Many, Loved by Few – David Moyes Leaves West Ham for the Second Time with His Head Held Higher than Ever

Football is called ‘The Beautiful Game’ for a very palatable reason. The sense of jeopardy and sacrifice one moment might provide can rarely be matched by any other feeling. There are people who may even swap limbs to see their team emerge victorious in a cup final. The spectacle of the sport is unique.


As David Moyes prepares for his final two weeks in charge of West Ham, the Irons’ faithful will continue to divide themselves from one another with a conscious viewpoint about how they see their manager. Since rejoining the east London club back in 2019 after the Hammers’ failed Manuel Pellegrini experiment had dissolved into thin air, the Scotsman has delivered success no West Ham fan could have ever imagined.


After steering the club away from relegation during the 2019/20 season, Moyes’s first full season in charge saw him lead the Irons to a sixth-place finish in the Premier League and qualification for the Europa League. West Ham reached the semi-finals of UEFA’s second-tier competition the following season, losing to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt over two legs. It’s not a bad record for a manager; the vast majority of the club’s fanbase appears to despise him.



That famous night in Prague a year later was the icing on the cake and the pinnacle of Moyes’ reputation as a coach, as Jarrod Bowen’s last-minute strike in the Europa League Final sent Moyes into delirium, chasing his emotions down the touchline with both fists firmly planted in the air.


It’s a long, drawn-out list of achievements with a club many would previously associate with battling for survival at the foot of the Premier League or even attempting promotion from the Championship. Despite an ultimately successful period for the club, Moyes continues to be berated and battered with criticism from various sections of the West Ham fanbase, as symptoms of ‘The Beautiful Game’ don’t appear to be on show in the eyes of many.


During the pre-match press conference last week before West Ham’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea, Moyes was asked if he still felt the hunger and determination to continue. “Absolutely,” he said. “I’m nearly embarrassed for you that you asked me that. I love football. I’m a football nut. I go to games, I watch games, and I love them. I really do.”


Having remained insistent throughout the season that his current contract would be fulfilled, and since the club came out with the news that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, Moyes’ imminent departure has been met with a sense of relief from observers.



The former Everton and Manchester United boss is West Ham’s most successful manager in half a century and has taken the club to the brink of qualification for European football’s elite competition, the Champions League. Many raise the question for those critical of Moyes and his style of play: ‘What do you expect?’.


The answer often mirrors the reaction Spurs fans gave during the toxic stewardship of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte back to back to one another, or even, ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Recent performances don’t stack up well for Moyes, however, as West Ham have won just one of their last nine fixtures in all competitions.


In fact, the Hammers have been torn apart on several occasions this season, as a 6-0 home defeat to Arsenal back in February saw half the stadium get up and leave before the half-time whistle. A recent 5-2 away loss to Crystal Palace made matters worse for the Scotsman, and an outrageous statistic doing the rounds this week places even more pressure on Moyes.


West Ham have lost a Premier League game by five or more goals on four separate occasions this season, just three behind Sheffield United, who have already been relegated while scoring 100 goals.



Fans might be more forgiving if the football was good, but it isn’t. In fact, Moyes’ men have conceded 70 top-flight goals in the league this season—the worst defensive record aside from the three teams occupying the relegation places. With two games left, it is the joint-most the club has ever given up in a Premier League campaign.


Such numbers are damning for Moyes, but they often cloud his ability as a manager among the higher echelons of English football’s elite group. West Ham were knocked out of the Europa League this season at the quarterfinal stage by Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen, a team yet to lose a match this season in any competition and haven’t tasted defeat for nearly a year now. To knock Moyes for bowing out to arguably the best team in Europe would fall short of any rational logic.


The reality for those looking for any half-reasonable excuse to criticise Moyes is that his West Ham team were a match for the Bundesliga champions in the first leg. It was only a scramble in the box and a tidy late finish that dealt Moyes’ side the ultimate blow, losing 2-0 on the night in Germany.


A valiant second-leg fightback galvanised the supporters to begin with as Michail Antonio’s early strike halved the deficit, but Alonso’s side regained control and grabbed a late equaliser to preserve their unbeaten run and knock the Irons out of the Europa League.



The football was different on the night. It was more aggressive and front-footed, which hasn’t been the case for the majority of Moyes’ tenure, but the supporters have seen success no other gaffer had achieved for half a century. It’s a testing conundrum for the fans, somewhat understandably.


“I didn’t really want Moyes in as manager, but to be honest, he has won me over. I will always be grateful to him for helping us win our first trophy in 43  years,” said a Hammers season ticket holder and lifelong fan.


“He has stabilised the club over the last four years and provided some great moments for the fans. I will never forget that night in Prague to become Champions of Europe.”


As every football fan knows, both team momentum and the wider narrative can change with the kick of a ball, and Moyes’ side have been no stranger to that.



“The pundits keep saying ‘be careful what you wish for’, but that feels really patronising to us lifelong Hammers fans. Moyes did well for us, but his time has come to an  end,” they continue.


“We were in a relegation battle last season and finished in 14th place on 40 points. Moyes was forgiven because we won the Conference League, but we have been woeful in 2024, with only one home win in the league since Christmas. It seems like the players are not listening to him anymore, so I think it is right that his contract is not renewed at the end of the season. I do wish him well for the future.”


The balance between what football should look like through the prism of the spectator and what creates a platform for progression is difficult to strike, despite periods of success for the likes of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.


Ultimately, Moyes has worked tremendously hard to achieve what he has to date and has delivered five years of respectable progress for the East London club, at least in the eyes of Baroness Karren Brady and owner David Sullivan.



“There’s a contract for me. I’m the one deciding I want to wait until the end of the season to make sure everything is correct and concentrate on this season,” Moyes told reporters before West Ham’s game against Brentford back in February.


These comments are symptomatic of a manager feeling pressure. Moyes has since had his own fate taken from him, as the club moved for former Real Madrid, Sevilla, and most recently Wolves boss Julien Lopetegui behind the scenes, with the Spaniard set to be announced imminently after agreeing a two-year contract.


The question remains: is Moyes’ successor the answer? Some would say no, although anyone but Moyes himself will do right now. After the Hammers’ 3-1 win over Luton at the London Stadium on Saturday, Moyes walked around the pitch with a smile, soaking up the rarely heard songs of support from those remaining inside the ground at full time. As the sun shone down on the players for the last time this season in east London and the departing Irons boss.


Attention now turns to the summer, with Lopetegui waiting in the wings to galvanise a group looking down and out.


By: Tom Norton / @XTPer90

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Glyn Kirk – AFP