Some might have noticed old Davie Moyes was given his marching orders over at Real Sociedad. Full disclosure: I am rather partisan on the topic of Moyes. Many of my fellow and dear Toffeemen (and women) have basically written the ginger Scot off as yesterday’s news, that he was too dour, too conservative, too… well, you get the picture. There hasn’t exactly been a love-in of support for this manager who conjured respectability out of a transfer budget so slim it is a wonder he built any squad whatsoever.
But build he did and over an eleven-year stint. During that time, Everton finished in the bottom half of the league only twice, never sinking lower than eighth, with a fourth place finish and a subsequent qualification to the Champions League thrown in. All on a shoestring. He parlayed the loss of the generation’s greatest English star Wayne Rooney into that fourth place finish. Everton played in the UEFA League and its successor, the Europa League, in three of those seasons, getting as far as the round of 16 one year. It does not look like much on paper but is significant when one considers the outlay of England’s European regulars such as the Mans U and City, Chelski, Hottenham Tottspur and the red mob across Stanley Park.
In short, I believe Moyes was, on the balance, good for Everton. He came in and dealt with things, never one to whine. Was he a bit pragmatic or dour, even? Sure. But he is a very intelligent manager, a footballing realist who believes in himself. You have to have a set to move from a comfortable appointment at a big (if cash strapped) club like Everton (where he could have remained indefinitely) to take on the snarling monstrosity that is Manchester United. After that gig went caput, he did not hang around these shores but chose his next appointment to be in Spain, in Basque country no less, a culture as foreign and insular as could be found in Western Europe.
You can’t say the guy shies away from challenges.
That gig, sadly, did not go so well for the Glaswegian. A failure to adapt, to even settle in enough to find a house (he stayed in a hotel for the entirety of his 364 day stint) or learn the language more than likely contributed to the impression that he never thought he’d last anyway. If he’d managed to produce the results then great. Unfortunately, those antecedents mentioned earlier are usually what will buy you the goodwill (and thus, time) to get the results. His inability to do so is, ultimately, cost him that needed time.
Moyes continues to split opinion wherever he goes, but there are plenty who still wonder what could have been if he been given the chance to really bed down at the Theatre of Dreams. It’s all speculation now, which is great fun but hardly can be used for serious dialogue on the subject. What the record shows is that Moyes can do great things on a limited budget in a club of a certain size (and history) in a place where he can settle in to the culture.
Maybe that’s why there are rumors bubbling up around the hinternets that he is being sized up for the hot seat at Leeds United, should bajillionaire Steve Parkin’s proposed 30 million pound bid go through. So let’s look at a few things here…
Leeds were relegated from the top flight at the end of the 2004 season. They have toiled for the last eleven years in both the Championship and League One. That is quite the plunge for a team that, during the ten years prior to their initial relegation from the Prem, had finished in the top five at total of seven times. The Premier League itself has only been around since 1993. Who won that final season season of its predecessor, League 1, in 1992? Leeds. They won it two years before that too. If you go back further, they reached the final of the old European Cup in 1975, losing to Bayern Munich. There are movies about the club. Kaiser Chiefs are huge fans. This is a massive club, with a large fanbase and storied history.
My guess is they’d be right up Moyes’ alley.
So, what needs to take place for this scenario to come about?
Right off the bat, current owner and tax fugitive Massimo Cellino needs to sell up. This comes much to the delight of Leeds fans and staff alike, the Italian owner being not the most loved figure at the Yorkshire club. His agreement to sell has set the Elland Road phones buzzing with potential suitors, with local businessman and lifelong fan Steve Parkin one name bandied about in the press. Initially, Cellino had offered to sell the club to a fan group, but backed out of that, much to their fury. It will be difficult to predict what can take place until the ink is dry on the sale contract. All bets are off between now and then.
However, if Cellino does indeed sell and if it goes to Parkin, then you would have a serviceable arrangement for the fans, at least in my mind. The similarities here between Leeds and Everton only increase at this point. Like Everton, Leeds would be owned by a lifelong fan who, while very wealthy would not be in the league of, say, Roman Abramovich at Chelsea or the Abu Dhabi group at Man City. Rich, but not rich rich. Parkin’s fortune is estimated at around 190 million pounds. His up-front investment in the club would come in around 30 million, it is said. That is a fair chunk of what he owns. And then comes the fun bit of actually running the club. How would he keep cash-positive?
The article in the Express states that Parkin has floated the possibility of a partnership between himself and Cellino. This is would more than likely not sit well with the fanbase. If assurances are made that the former Catania owner would have no part in the running of the club and would, effectively, be a silent partner, then perhaps it could work.
All of that aside, this would be a decent platform for Moyes to reinvent himself. As alluded to earlier, I am not of the opinion that Moyes is a rubbish manager. I think he was screwed at United. It is an under reported fact that Moyes’ short amount of time at the United helm was adversely impacted by the appointment of Ed Woodward as the club’s CEO. Never having navigated the transfer market at any club, Woodward was given point on negotiating contracts and, as such, United made several disastrous moves during that first transfer window that ultimately came back to haunt Moyes. Had outgoing CEO David Gill stayed at the club one year longer, Moyes could still be standing on the Old Trafford sideline this season.
Moyes’ year in northern Spain must also be taken into context. It was always going to be a big ask for someone who never lived outside of Britain to go to a new country with a radically different culture and be successful. Some will point toward Steve McClaren’s successful spell at FC Twente in Enschede and criticize Moyes for not doing as well. There are similarities in both instances, but there are also some very extreme differences.
Firstly, McClaren’s hard-earned reputation was savagely torpedoed by the fickle and ridiculous English press. It is fair to say that his stint as England manager was extremely poor, but it must also be pointed out that expectations for the Three Lions are not in line with reality. England are not a global powerhouse and have not been for a long time. That McClaren was unable to motivate the troops is not entirely his fault.
McClaren to his show on the road after the England disaster, similar to another former Toon manager, Bobby Robson. He was very clever in taking over Twente because, frankly, no one had ever heard of them before he took them over. They were a smallish club in a league that has produced some significant brands on the European stage (Ajax, PSV Eindhoven) but is largely of interest only to the Dutch. McClaren went there and did very well for himself, winning the Eredivisie in 2010 and making forays into European competition. On the strength of these displays he was hired by Wolfsburg, which didn’t go so well. His return spell at Twente was not as successful as the first time out. His return to management in England came via Derby. he was hired by Newcastle this last summer in what has proven to be a very difficult return to the big time indeed.
McClaren really did fail with England and was subsequently tarred and feathered by the press. Moyes did not suffer such an ignominious public flogging as McClaren and still has his supporters. Secondly, his next job was in what is arguably the world’s most glamorous league. Glamour is different than competitive, though – it is arguable that there is greater competition between teams in Holland than Spain. Aside from the big four of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and Atletico de Madrid though, there’s not much else going on in the league. The spotlight is much brighter, however, and while McClaren learned to navigate the Dutch league and assimilate the culture, Moyes never really fit in. That has to be on him. In Spain, you speak Spanish. The supremos at Anoeta saw in him real talent and drive, and he without a doubt has both in spades. His failure to adapt to the culture and to ever, really, unpack his bags speaks volumes.
So he’s done the Spain adventure. He’s been at the helm of arguably the world’s biggest club. He’s proven he can lead a former giant like Everton. He has bags of experience at this point. He could be just what the doctor ordered at Elland Road.
He will hope for better than what happened to McClaren at Derby, though. Remember, he got fired from that gig. Sure, he landed on his feet (so to speak) at Newcastle, but he has battled there. What’s to say Moyes will have a better run of it at Leeds?
The answer to all of these things is, at least in part, down to the owner. If the owner is patient and backs his man, there is far more chance of success. Moyes had that at Everton, just as McClaren had it at Middlesbrough and Twente. He did not have it at Wolfsburg. He did not have patient bosses at Derby. He might still pull it off at Newcastle, but everyone knows Mike Ashley is a blithering idiot.
If Steve Parkin takes over the club and behaves more like an owner who truly loves the club (like Everton’s Bill Kenwright or Middlesbrough’s Steve Gibson), then Moyes will be given every opportunity to come right. If Cellino hangs about, then maybe not. Good owners make for good clubs. I hope Leeds gets one who is looking to see the club be great because he or she loves that club, not because of the potential for revenue. I’d say Leeds is the kind of club I’d love to see turning out in the Prem. It will be interesting to follow this story.