David Moyes’s shout-out to Salzburg and Leipzig draws attention to West Ham’s sorry state

Melissa Reddy
David Moyes speaks to the media on Monday: PA

Amid all the discontent over David Moyes’s return as West Ham manager, 19 months after he was not viewed as a leader “in line with the club’s ambitions”, came an interesting declaration.

During his first press conference back at Rush Green, there were the inevitable point-and-laugh moments that plaster social media.

“I’ve got the biggest win-rate out of a certain number of managers,” the Scot said. “Put it that way, that’s what I do. I win.”

Except at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland. Perhaps that’s why the post-Goodison Park part of Moyes’s career was airbrushed out of West Ham’s statement, which concluded he “has managed in the Premier League for 15 seasons, including a successful spell at Everton which earned him a move to Old Trafford”.

But skip past the meme-worthy content and the compelling bit of communication from the 56-year-old on Monday was the pinpointing of Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig as exciting, sustainable templates to follow regarding football structure and development.

That analysis from Moyes is accurate and yet his rehiring by David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady is in complete contrast to a move either of the above clubs would make.

Austria’s champions and the Bundesliga leaders would firstly not find themselves in such a situation – reversing towards a man deemed safe and for the short-term rather than a figure to help sculpt a progressive future – due to the clarity of vision that underpins every decision they take.

West Ham, by contrast, have referenced the ‘right direction’ while following so many divergent routes to indicate there is no solid blueprint at play.

To his credit, Moyes who was initially appointed on a short-term contract in November 2017 and guided the team to Premier League safety before being replaced by Manuel Pellegrini, discovered that during his first spell in East London.

“There’s a lot to be done on the pitch and a lot to be done off the pitch as well,” he admitted in May last year.

“There are a lot of things we could address, like around the training ground. My experience has allowed me to see what good really looks like off the pitch, whether it be facilities, a board of directors, the people who work round football clubs, the roles people should have.”

By that point, West Ham had already long taken advice from Moyes to draft in experts to objectively assess the operational side of things. The feedback was that there was no concrete departmental structures, no consistency in practices, a dearth of communication and not enough people employed in key positions. The football-specific findings were shocking for a club in the top 20 of Deloitte’s Money League, with analysis treated as an afterthought while their scouting arm was dwarfed by much smaller clubs around Europe.

So, what did West Ham do to remedy that? They largely ignored the need for wider change via a long-term plan unaffected by whoever is at the helm, reaching for a magic cure-all instead.

Sullivan, Gold and Brady celebrated the signing of Pellegrini, a “high-calibre figure who we feel will lead the club into an exciting future” and allowed him to design matters behind the scenes while spending lavishly.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester City manager plumped for his friend Mario Husillos as director of football, who roped in his son as a senior scout.

Like Pellegrini, the pair’s services have been dispensed of, with backroom staff Ruben Cousillas, Enzo Maresca, Jose Cabello and Felix Cao joining the exodus.

Moyes is naturally being allowed to select his coaching make-up – Alan Irvine, also released last May, returns while Stuart Pearce is under consideration but has other commitments – and that should be as far as his fingerprints stretch.

Recruitment, the running of the Academy and such vital matters cannot be controlled by a manager. In truth, those fundamentals should actually inform who the man in the dugout must be, but West Ham could not confidently sketch the profile of player they monitor, let alone list the characteristics required of someone to guide them through the next five years.

In a roundtable interview that The Independent was part of earlier this month, Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch put their success down to one overriding aspect: “Literally everyone is aligned.

“That is from the academy, to the scouting, to the coaches. In every aspect of the organisation there is a clear identity, goal and vision.

“That allows everybody to understand how to commit to their job better. This is the easiest job I’ve ever had, because I’m surrounded by people that are better at what they do than I am. I don’t have to worry about their jobs – I can focus on mine. People need to have areas of expertise, trust each other and execute a plan. That’s in business and football.

“When I see big clubs that lack that, I ask myself, ‘How?’ How is that not the focus? What are the leaders doing?’”

David Moyes knows there is plenty to improve on and off the pitch at West Ham (Getty)

How would West Ham answer that? They now have the opportunity for a proper reset, to put pillars in place that allow them to build in sustainable way. Understandably, there is little confidence they will.

But if the appreciation of Salzburg and Leipzig’s model goes beyond just the aesthetics, recruiting the man given credit for a sizeable chunk of their accomplishments should top West Ham’s to-do list.

Ralf Rangnick, Red Bull’s head of sport and development, has been one of United’s candidates for their sporting director vacancy. He ruled himself out of taking temporary charge at Bayern Munich, because he does not believe in quick fixes. Rangnick, a massive influence on Jurgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann, was in the running to replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, but Unai Emery was chosen instead.

He could help West Ham actually navigate the ‘right direction,’ because for the past decade the steering has been as good as Michail Antonio’s when he crashed his Lamborghini​ into a family’s front garden wall while dressed as a snowman.

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