David Moyes has managed four clubs over an eight-year period since he left Goodison Park and yet for most fans, he is still primarily associated with Everton.
However, while his name was cemented into Toffees folklore during 11 years on Merseyside in which the team finished inside the Premier League’s top eight on nine occasions, it is in the east end of London, at West Ham, where Moyes’ greatest-ever project is unfolding.
Emotions have always run high whenever Moyes has set foot in the opposition dugout at Goodison and the 12th occasion this weekend will be no different.
What is different about this time, however, is that Moyes returns to his old employers equipped with not only the best visiting side he has taken to Goodison, but the best team of his managerial career – his words, not mine.
“This is as good as I’ve had. This is right up there,” Moyes exclusively told Sky Sports ahead of West Ham’s trip to Everton on Super Sunday.
“By the time I reached year 10 at Everton, I had real quality players, international players, and a balance with a team who understood me. But in year two at Everton, I didn’t have the same quality of player as I have now at West Ham.
“I think the football we are playing at the moment is right up there. Yes, there have been one or two blips, but we’ve played some really good football, we look exciting.
“I want my team to be hard to play against; if you are going to be successful, you need to be defensively. And, as a coach, I will win by any means, it’s my job to win and I want the team to be top of the league winning games.
“But there have been times when I have actually stood back from the touchline and thought, ‘oh boy, you guys are playing well, this is good to watch, I’m enjoying this’.
“I think that is why the London Stadium is full – the fans watched West Ham during lockdown and thought, ‘goodness, I’m missing that’.”
The West Ham way?
Moyes’ second stint at the London Stadium has seen the dramatic transformation of relegation-threatened West Ham into European qualifiers in the space of a single season.
For the first time in a generation, the Hammers fanbase have a team and a manager in which they can believe, and a brand of football that may just tick all the criteria needed to be classed as the ‘West Ham way’.
Moyes insists such a conclusion rests in the hands of West Ham supporters, but what is certain is the challenge on juggling a domestic schedule and a maiden Europa League group-stage campaign is one the 58-year-old is relishing.
“Other people will tell you about the West Ham way better than me,” he added. “You need to ask the West Ham supporters.
“But there’s been a change in culture, mentality, and the players are playing much better. I hope this isn’t a short-term thing, I hope we can build on it into the long-term.”
Moyes: Bring it on!
Moyes continued: “As a manager, I am loving it. West Ham back in Europe is such a big thing for us. At the end of the Rapid Vienna game, we had over 50,000 there, it was incredible.
“You can see what it means, it’s something we really want. I’m not going to sit back and say it’s tough or whatnot, I’m the opposite, I’m saying bring it on.
“But what I might need to do is juggle the squad, I might not always be able to play Declan Rice or Tomas Soucek in every game, but I am saying bring it on: we want the games and want to attack it.
“We’ve started well, we’ve got some more work to do, but I do know if we can qualify and be in Europe after Christmas time, it would be a great boost for us.”
‘West Ham want to be among Europe’s best’
Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park marks the beginning of a crucial set of fixtures for West Ham across all competitions.
Moyes insists it is too soon for the run of games – which includes Tottenham and Liverpool in the Premier League, a Carabao Cup tie against Manchester City, and a Europa League double-header against Genk – to take on season-defining status but has demanded his players, at the very least, deliver performances befitting of the level West Ham strive to attain.
“If the players play in the same manner and fashion as they have for the past 12 months, I’ll be happy. That’s all I can do,” Moyes explained. “We won’t win every game but it’s the performance that counts, and our performances have been so good.
“I want to challenge whoever the top four are, I want to give them games. Yes, we will have to manage the period in some ways. Do you take it a game at a time? Yes, you do. But there’s probably four or five of the best teams in Europe coming up and that is the level I want West Ham to get to.
“We want to be playing the best teams, we want to be getting into Europe, we want to play against teams who can really push and challenge us because I think we need that at the moment, we need to be pushed.”
He added: “I wouldn’t say it’s defining. We had a period last season where we were maybe going along in mid-table and it wasn’t until after the Christmas period where we picked up and got into things. I want us to be in a good position coming out of Christmas time and in the New Year.
“Managing this first part of the season, staying to be in as many cup competitions as we can, being in contention and trying to be a good league position is what counts, I don’t think being top at this time of year means that much, it’s how you get on later in the year.”
Moyes: Nothing but respect for Everton
Whenever managers and players return to their former clubs – or ‘old stomping ground’, as Moyes put it – it offers the chance for reflection.
So much has changed for Moyes personally, so much has changed at Everton, West Ham, and football in general, but those Goodison days remain as vivid as ever and continue to steer the managerial path he treads.
“Huge memories, huge days and games we had, some of which were fantastic for me in my career,” Moyes said. “I’ve got nothing but respect for the club, for the people who gave me the opportunity – Sir Philip Carter, Bill Kenwright – because they gave me a great opportunity and base to do so.
“Football has moved on much quicker now, I don’t know if you do get years to prep. In life in general, people want things quicker now, people don’t want to wait. If you tell people they will have a good team in five years’ time, they will say that’s too long. The job makes it very difficult for anybody because you’re judged very quickly now.
“Through those 11 years at Everton I worked with brilliant players and staff, the crowd were fantastic, and they realised we were an improving team, if not the best.
“I look back and think Everton treated me well, they treated me with class with whatever they did, whether it was when I left, whether it was dealing with new contracts. They did their best with what they had at the time.”
Extracting every ounce of potential at a club where everyone is rowing in the same direction came to characterise Moyes’ tenure at Everton. After searching long and hard for the same ingredients in the years after he departed Goodison, he looks to have finally found them again at West Ham, and the Hammers are excelling.