West Ham boss David Moyes at peak of his powers as he reaches landmark 1,000th game

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

On Thursday night David Moyes will join an exclusive club, one which he has looked up to for a number of years.

West Ham’s trip to Genk in Belgium may turn out to be a routine one given their form in the Europa League, but for Moyes it will always hold a special place as he takes charge of his 1,000th game as a manager.

“I have got to say, it’s something that all the managers that you hear talking about it [do so] with a level of pride,” he says looking ahead to the achievement.

“Because we realise to come to this length [of time] and working in this industry, it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. I’m certainly glad I am here now.”

It has been quite the path to this milestone for Moyes, marked with memorable highs, famous lows and founded in humble beginnings.

Winding back the counter from 999 to one, his first match as player-manager of Preston North End came on January 13, 1998 with a 1-0 victory at Macclesfield in the Auto Windscreens Shield, a game in which he decided against picking himself.

That good start was followed by seven games without a win in the Second Division (now League One) with Moyes only playing in one, a 3-0 defeat to Carlisle, before his first emotional three points came away at Bournemouth.

“I remember I nearly cried after the game because I was that pleased that I had won a game,” he says.

“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 it’s 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 quite early on, never knowing if I was ever going to be offered the job.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The preparation had indeed been a long time coming.

Moyes took his Scottish coaching badges aged 22 before going to Lilleshall to earn the English equivalent a few years later to ensure all bases were covered.

Even before he became a professional, Moyes was, from a young age, being reared for a life in football and all the toil behind the scenes.

“My dad ran a boys team in Glasgow, and I always think that is probably where I saw the organisation,” says Moyes, whose father, David Moyes Snr, will be watching from the stands in Genk as his son marks his special occasion.

“He was booking the pitches, the games against the opposition, because there is not people to do it. Make sure all the players were turning up at the right time at the right place. They all had to turn up smart and had to conduct themselves well. So I was brought up in that.

“My mum used to wash the strip and hang them out on the line on a Sunday after the game, and I was packing them up and folding them up, so it was in a way if I look back, it gives me a lot of fond memories, because I think my family were really heavily involved.”

That grounded upbringing has followed Moyes through his career, to Everton where he excelled over 11 years and punched well above his weight but never got ahead of himself, and then into Manchester United.

He was offered the job of all jobs by the manager of all managers for those hailing from north of the border, Sir Alex Ferguson.

It, as Moyes is often reminded, did not work out as anyone would have liked at Old Trafford, but just as he does not lose his head when things are going well, Moyes holds no bitterness towards the club.

“I was certainly disappointed after Manchester United because I didn’t get offered the job by the Glazers, by Ed Woodward,” he says. “I got offered the job from Sir Alex. Sir Alex in many ways is the pinnacle of what people see in football in this country. To get that opportunity it was something I felt I had to take.

“Sometimes you have to have the bad times to get some good times and get the opportunities.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Another then followed in Spain with Real Sociedad - “an unbelievable feeling” to work there, says Moyes - before he crashed back down to earth in England with a doomed spell at Sunderland which brought a first relegation of his career and a resignation at the end of a sorry season.

“I think when people look back, and myself, people would say Sunderland were in decline and it was going to be a really hard job for anybody,” Moyes reflects.

“I said that at the time. It was a real disappointing time because I don’t think whoever was in charge would have made Sunderland work. Sunderland have struggled since and I really hope they get back because I really enjoyed my time there.”

Moyes was offered the chance to revive his career at West Ham and did so by keeping them up after replacing Slaven Bilic in 2017.

He ended that season on a high and was planning for the future before being overlooked for the supposedly more attractive and accomplished Manuel Pellegrini, who spent well over £100million and left the Hammers in a relegation scrap when he departed in December 2019.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Moyes’s career looked to have reached the point where he would join the group of British managers called upon to fight fires and keep sides up, in the mould of his predecessor at Sunderland, Sam Allardyce.

But the former Preston boss was never going to accept that particular pigeon hole.

Moyes spent his time out of the dugout studying football across the continent, working for UEFA as a technical adviser reporting on developing trends in the game, a role he reprised at Euro 2020 and which kept him up to date and prepared for the next chance.

It just so happened that that chance would come back at West Ham, where he was finally given the space and time to build and has been on an upward curve ever since.

Moyes looks at the peak of his powers. Everything at West Ham is aligned to his wish, with everyone involved buying into his plan for the club.

But he is not one to rest on his laurels and feel he has all the tools needed to continue this success.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way about it,” he says, when asked when he felt he had cracked management.

“I think I’ll always feel I’ll have to work every week in preparation, try and prepare my players for whatever game. But the other side of it, I think you do get to a stage where you feel as if I have an idea about what it is you want to do, I know how to coach, I want to prepare a team for a game on a Saturday. And I can do that.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Moyes is in command of his vision, but the emotions which welled up after that first win at Bournemouth more than 23 years ago still flow through each and every game.

“100 per cent, 100 per cent,” he says, without hesitation. “I’m crying during it sometimes at some of the performances!

“Football is an emotional game, it can get you at times. 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.

“And we know that you’re judged every week, everybody has got an opinion now and sometimes you know he way you’re getting judged as you well doesn’t always doesn’t make you out to be the best person.”

The fiercest judgement for Moyes came at Man United, and whether it is fair or not, his career will always be separated between before and after Old Trafford.

His quest since has not been to prove doubters wrong but to remind everyone why Sir Alex saw him as his natural successor nearly a decade ago in the first place, a fight he is glad to continue and is arguably winning at West Ham.

“I think for me [the motivation] was to show that you don’t get offered the big jobs if you haven’t done something right,” he says.

“My feeling was that I have to get to the level, if I can’t be at Manchester United, I have to get back to the level I was at at Everton and use my experience of those jobs.

“Even at Sociedad we had games against Barcelona that we won so I have to get back to those levels and use my experience at West Ham.

“I think West Ham is a good club for me, I really do 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.”

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