As should’ve been glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention, the countdown on the “When Will David Moyes Get Fired From Real Sociedad, Because This Is Definitely Not Gonna Work Out” clock started ticking towards the final stages of last season. Somehow Moyes himself couldn’t hear the ticking, so he rejected “a number” of offers to manage other clubs before time expired. That was not a good move.
Moyes has finally released an official statement remarking upon his completely foreseen recent firing. Even in a perfunctory few sentences, he manages to reveal some of the myopia that led not only to his failure in Spain, but also to his inability to land a decent job elsewhere before it was too late. Let’s take a look:
“I am disappointed to have left Real Sociedad. When I accepted the job as manager of La Real last November, my remit was to avoid relegation and retain the club’s La Liga status.”
See now, we already have a problem. Avoiding relegation was the absolute minimum requirement. The whole reason the Real Sociedad position opened up a few months into last season was that the team, with its array of legitimate talent that had just the year before mustered a 4th place finish in La Liga, had no business struggling as mightily as they were. Rather than being the relegation threat they were then, the club’s higher-ups believed that the squad had the ability to finish in the league’s top third.
So on one hand, yes, Moyes was hired and told “Don’t get us relegated.” But relegation was never a real threat; for as inarguably poor as the team had played at the start of the 2013-14 season, it was still in part bad luck that they found themselves flirting with the relegation zone instead of holding down an unimpressive though technically safe spot among the lower side of the midtable. Relegation would’ve been an abject disaster. Staying safe in his first season was the floor of La Real’s expectation, and what he was really meant to accomplish was get the team playing something much closer to a top 7 or 8 level, even if the paltry points accumulation before he arrived meant the club couldn’t rightfully expect him to get the team there right away.
At that was his real failure. While manager, La Real were only marginally better defensively than when he arrived, had no coherent system of play, and were criminally incompetent in attack for the creative talents at their disposal. Despite nearly an entire year on the job and copious offseason investment, Moyes’s team looked eeriely similar to the hapless and disinterested bunch he had inherited.
Seeing that Real Sociedad weren’t getting better under his stewardship and that he’d soon pay for this fact with his job (have I mentioned how obvious this fact was yet?), it would have been smart for Moyes to cut bait and move on to more congenial climes, a.k.a. the dour, unadventurous hills of England. Instead, he kept his fingers in his ears and trudged on, believing everything would work out despite all evidence to the contrary:
“I made a firm promise to Real Sociedad to honour my contract and it is disappointing not to be able to fulfil this commitment especially when I have turned down a number of job opportunities in recent months.”
Believe it or not, it’s probably true. Over the summer, both West Ham and Newcastle were reportedly interested in bringing the Brit abroad home. Either job would’ve made sense: West Ham have money to spend and good players to build on. That would’ve been the perfect combination of largish club size and lowish expectations upon which to rebuild his status, as the team’s current 6th place position under new manager Slaven Bilić has proven.
The Newcastle job is pretty shitty, but at least they are willing spenders that could (and should) be a much bigger than they currently are. Appointing a manager like Moyes and promising to show some actual ambition for once could’ve been just what the club needed to get their widely-reviled owner back in the fans’ good graces. And just a few weeks ago, lowly Aston Villa reportedly kicked Moysie’s tires. It wouldn’t have been the most glorious of comeback destinations, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Alas, Moyes has been left to sit around, reading the gossip pages like the rest of us, trying to guess which Premier League manager will be next to fall and whether the club would even be interested in his services. (Unless his master plan all along was to sit out for a bit after leaving Spain; if so, fair play.) The Newcastle job could very well be back in play, and the Swansea gig that might be coming open sooner than later wouldn’t be too bad (though he wouldn’t at all be a fit there).
But Moyes will probably have to wait a while either for a job he feels is commensurate with his stature to fall into his lap or for him to lower his standards enough to take a position with a fixer-upper. Who knows though, maybe he will continue failing upwards. It’s happened before. And what would be more fitting of this bizarre season so far than finding out in a week or two that Moyes had been named the interim manager succeeding José Mourinho at Chelsea?
Photo via AP