When West Ham take to the field against Genk on Thursday evening, David Moyes will be managing his 1,000 game of football, a feat even the modest Scot has admitted he is proud of achieving.
Moyes’ career has seen him manage six clubs over a 23-year period and from his first win to his most recent, the Scot has revealed that despite his ‘football face’ every victory is an emotional moment that sometimes leaves him close to tears.
“Football is an emotional game, it can get you at times,” Moyes said. “We all put on a face, which is a football face and that’s how we work but deep down we’re all really emotional with the game and we want to win, we want to be successful.”
Moyes’ first win came in January 1998 when as player/manager of Preston North End he saw his team triumph 1-0 over Macclesfield in an Auto Windscreens Shield match. The manager then went on a six-game winless run before finally recording his first league victory.
“I lost the first five or six games, I think my first league win was at Bournemouth. I think I remember I nearly cried after the game because I was that pleased that I had won a game,” he said. “To me, it means so much when you’re a manager in charge because you know that you’re the one who’s seen as the fall guy if it doesn’t go right and for me at that time, maybe if I’d have lost a couple of games maybe I’d have said ‘hey, maybe just not for me’. But I think really, to be honest, I’d probably been preparing myself without knowing to become a coach and manager from probably quite early on, never knowing if I was ever going to be offered the job.”
Moyes was a successful player, making over 500 professional appearances and winning the Scottish Premier Division with Celtic in 1982 but he never managed to get international recognition.
“I have really enjoyed my career. If there is anything that I regret as a player it is that I wanted to play for Scotland, but at the time Scotland had so many good centre-halves.”
Without a cap for his country, Moyes believes that his career as a manager has been more successful than his achievements as a player and once he settled into management he had no doubts he would reach the 1,000 game mark, but not necessarily with the bulk of those in the Premier League.
“I always thought that once I was well underway I would get there because if the worst comes to the worst I’ll go and manage somewhere, or I’ll take some team to go and get to 1,000. That was my idea,” he added.
“I never thought when I started to become a manager that I would go on to be managing at the top of the Premier League and that nearly all my games, the majority, have been in the Premier League. I was a relatively unknown player at the time, but I enjoyed a really good career, I had a good career, I played a lot of games as a player. But I was always hoping that I could stay in football.”
Moyes’ love of the game is clear when he admits that had he not made it at the top level he would have been happy working with a youth team or even amateur football.
“I might have become a boys team manager, or maybe somebody would give me a youth team job, or I would run a social club or something,” he said. “That was probably what I hoped for if I didn’t know what I was going to do after football.”
Twenty-three years on and 999 games later, the thought of Moyes running a social club instead of masterminding West Ham’s surge up the table is almost laughable such is the job he is doing at the club.
However, Moyes was almost not given the chance to take West Ham on their current journey after being replaced at the club in 2018 despite keeping a struggling Hammers in the top flight.
“That was really tough. That period was really tough,” he added. “We thought we had done a really good job, actually we had made plans. I had met a couple of players who I thought were coming in for the next period because I thought we were going on and then out of the blue it wasn’t there.
“We didn’t think we could have done a lot more. We beat Everton on the last day of the season here, we had won at Leicester to stay up. We had finished really strongly so it was a shock. Was it a disappointing time? Yeah, it was. But in football to get the good times you have to have bad times along the way as well. I don’t think you get it all good.”
Moyes has learnt from his mistakes and disappointments and gone on to become a hugely successful and popular figure at West Ham, a club where is he thoroughly enjoying life.
“I think West Ham is a good club for me, I really do,” he added. “And I am really, really grateful to the owners for bringing me back because sometimes when you are put in a position it’s very hard to fight back and the owners have given me a chance to fight back and I am going to keep throwing some punches.”
Moyes recognises his achievement is a huge one but the understated Scot’s assertation that he is pleased it is an away match is a sign of a modest man and one who is nowhere near finished with the game.
“I’m glad it’s an away game, because I’m hoping I can keep it under the radar because I’m not someone who wants to shout from the rooftops. It’s not my style really,” he said. “But I have got to say when you see the [list of] managers who have got to 1,000 games, it’s a big, big achievement, and I feel that way.”
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With his 1,000 game in sight, Moyes is still looking to challenge himself and his players but is not sure if he will replicate his 11-year spell with Everton in east London.
“I don’t know if it will happen – I think Dychie [Sean Dyche] is getting close to 10 years, which is great because I don’t think there are many in football who will get it again,” he added. “I have to say, if I am honest, for Neil Warnock to get to 1,600 games is unbelievable. He must be 108 just now, Neil Warnock, you know what I mean!
“So I don’t know if I want to be that. I want to enjoy my life as well after. I want to be able to do other things. I really like being involved in football, I do some work for Uefa, I like being around watching games, I like being involved in the coaching side of things and that’s more appealing to me than anything.”
The Scot added: “But I’m looking at it as saying we have to keep this going. We’re on the fast train as quick as we can to the top and I don’t want to get off and I do think that West Ham supporters are probably hoping that we can keep going.”