Have Big Job Disasters Ruined Sam Allardyce and David Moyes?
However you plan to use up your allotted time on this spinning geoid of mud and liquid, as it hurtles unrelentingly through the cosmos, I think we can all agree, the hunger to better one’s self is an important characteristic of the species. It’s arguably what makes us human and not, for example, a door head ant. (Go on, Google ‘door head ant’ and prepare to feel much better about your own unfulfilled existence.)
A football manager is no different. Indeed, the pursuit of self-improvement is a trait inherent in all those who’ve reached the very highest summit of the sport. From Rinus Michels to Arsène Wenger; they’ve all been driven by the desire for more.
Take Alex Ferguson. His legendary status at Aberdeen could’ve been further established, had he remained at Pittodrie after winning multiple League and European titles in the mid-80s, and hauled his dominance over the Old Firm through to the next decade. But, as would any coach with lofty ambitions, he saw the opportunity to take over one Europe’s most famous clubs— if not the most successful at the time— and create a dynasty of even greater repute.
Likewise, David Moyes. Given a few more years, he could have tunnelled his roots even deeper at Everton, perhaps even won a trophy or two, and put his name alongside Thomas H. McIntosh and Howard Kendall in Goodison folklore. But his desires too were motivated by the promise of better things. When Manchester United came calling, there was no other choice for the former Preston coach.
Sam Allardyce regularly detailed his aspirations to manage at the highest level. With timbres of irony, he talked about the number of trophies he would’ve collected had he been given a chance at Inter Milan or Real Madrid— he’d win the double every season, naturally. His dream vocation, however, was always focused on the international stage. He wanted the England job and in the summer of 2016, he got it.
All those years brawling in the mid-table fighting pits with West Ham and Bolton Wanderers were worth it. As Big Sam would tell you himself, it was that motivation to further his standing in the game, as in all walks of life, that kept the fires burning. His personal goals sustained him.
So, what happens, as was the case for Moyes and Allardyce, when you finally do land that fantasy job — and you make a complete mess of it? What happens, to quote Tyrion Lannister, when the joy turns to ashes in your mouth?
Well, if the Premier League table is any barometer; it would appear it’s an experience that can break you. Not just in terms of reputation, but perhaps your very composition as human. Take a glimpse at David Moyes’ dark, burrowed-out eyes and ash-grey complexion and tell me he’s not dead inside. Of course, life at the wrong end of the division can do terrible things to a man— for first hand evidence look how the years have been shaved off Paul Lambert now that the Aston Villa managerial position isn’t feeding on his soul.
But David Moyes doesn’t look like someone who’s suffering from the usual anguish associated with potential relegation. His ordeal at Old Trafford appears to have vacuumed every last happy memory he might’ve had stored up and spat the resultant husk on the touchline at The Stadium of Light. The leftovers of an alien abduction vomited back to earth with a bewildering bump. How did I get here?
What happens when you reach the absolute pinnacle, but can’t quite make it work: will mediocracy ever be good enough?
Moyes certainly doesn’t sound like he’s adapting to life back on the farm. United fans will contest that he was forever stinking up the place with his incessant negativity— it’ll be one of the hallmarks of his unfortunate reign —but he seems to have reached new levels of defeatism. Here he is, back in August, talking about the potential of Sunderland being relegated:
“People will be flat because they are hoping that something is going to dramatically change – it can’t dramatically change, it can’t.”
I’d guess that most Sunderland fans were aware that their team were popular candidates for relegation, but jeez, way to inspire the masses.
Even Moyes’ signings in the last two transfer windows have been indicative of a man emotionally detached from the cause. How much inspiration did it require to formulate the Evertonian Old Boys shortlist of Joleon Lescott, Bryan Ovideo and Darron Gibson in January? Presumably the same amount that encouraged him to put the Bat-Signal out to Adnan Januzaj, Steven Pienaar and Paddy McNair in the summer; another bundle of his former players whom Moyes thought would be just the ticket.
And what was his reaction when questioned about the seemingly unimaginative nature of his transfer policy? Well, who else is going to come here? In so many words.
After throwing away the England job— in, shall we say —unceremonious circumstances, Sam Allardyce also looks to have given up the fight at Crystal Palace. Reports from the press conference after their catastrophic defeat to Sunderland last weekend (a result which should’ve triggered immediate demotion to League Two) suggested that Allardyce was far from the enraged figure such a loss might have warranted. He couldn’t even be bothered to blame anyone, just a it happens shrug to the gathered media and off he went.
So, what’s the lesson here? Don’t try because it’ll only end in heartbreak and misery? Keep the safe job because punching above your station is difficult and scary? If there is something to be learned, I guess, it’s that if we are ever granted access to the next level: well, try and enjoy it. Because you never know where you might end up next. One minute, you're on top of the world. The next, some secretary is running over your foot with a lawn motor.
Also, if someone asks you to say that bit again, only louder, maybe dash for the exit. Not before necking your pint of wine first, obviously. Right, Sam?