At first, David Moyes as manager of Real Sociedad sits a little uncomfortably. It’s like when your first girlfriend asks you to stop wearing baggy clothes and buys you a tight-fitting t-shirt. You’re a little bemused, you can’t immediately see what the benefit is, but over time you realize she was right. The same will be true of the tale of Real Moyesiedad.
It is easy to forget that Moyes is a good manager. His unfortunate season at Old Trafford and subsequent spot in the football world’s psyche as simply the butt of memes has obscured history. He was extremely successful as manager of Preston North End and earned a chance at a Premiership club – a feat not many lower league managers achieve. While at Everton – though his work was not often glamorous – the consistency and stability he achieved with a team that had for so long hung in the division by a thread was quite remarkable. Let’s not forget their wonderful run in 2005 that led the Toffees to the Champions League qualifiers. Further, his time on Merseyside proved his transfer market acumen when not forcibly paired up with Edwoodwoodwood. Over the course of his reign, Moyes bought quality players on the cheap, often making large profits when it came time to sell them on, or securing long-term core players for his squad.
- Joseph Yobo – 4.5m
- James McFadden – 1.25m
- Tim Cahill – 2m;
- Mikel Arteta – 2m (from Real Sociedad, no less)
- Thomas Gravesen – 2.5m
- Joleon Lescott – 2.5m
- Marouane Fellaini – 12.9m
- Tim Howard – 3m
- John Stones – 500k
There are countless more, but the above are good examples of an extremely shrewd operator – an attribute he will need at Real Sociedad where money is tight. The Scot’s troubled times at Manchester United are well documented, but as the hand-picked successor to Sir Alex Ferguson and inheriting a squad in need of drastic overhaul, Moyes was always on a hiding to nothing. Add to that the absurdity that is Edward Woodward – a sort of transfer market Boris Johnson…well intentioned, over-confident but ultimately bumbling and incompetent – and the former Everton manager’s poor season looks rather more understandable. To back up the theory that one bad season does not a bad manager make, we need only look at Mark Hughes. His disastrous spell at QPR has been followed by a very successful period in charge of Stoke.
Real Sociedad, meanwhile, are not too dissimilar to Everton. An upwardly mobile club with a lot of history (they are one of only nine Spanish clubs to have won La Liga), an endearing underdog status and a recent appearance in the Champions League. Their youth academy isn’t half bad either. Xabi Alonso is a product. Antoine Griezmann, Asier Illaramendi, Inigo Martinez and Ruben Pardo have all come through the ranks more recently. Moyes works well with young players. At Everton he brought through Rooney, Rodwell, Barkley and even Coleman despite not being an academy graduate. The chance to work with young players of the quality of Pardo, Martinez and Carlos Vela is one Moyes will relish.
Sociedad have had some serious players in their time, too. Remember Nihat Kahveci? How about Darko Kovacevi, Aranzabal, Mikel Arteta or Sander Westerveld? The latter – who played under Moyes at Everton – is confident that the Scot is the right man for the job.
“It’s maybe a smart move for him. It’s one of those clubs in Spain that is a very stable club, they don’t have a president who throws money away and sacks coaches every couple of months. The club is famous for its scouting system and for developing younger players, so I think he should feel at home.
It’s a little bit like Everton, it’s a decent club. When they have a good year they reach the Champions League, normally they play mid-table. It’s a good, well-structured, decent club. He will feel at home. He won’t have any pressure if they lose a couple of games, they have a lot of faith in their foreign coaches.”
Real Sociedad not only put faith in foreign coaches, they have a history of going British. Moyes will be their fourth manager from Britain after Harry Lowe, John Toshack and Chris Coleman. While part of Moyes’ motivation for a move to Spain will be to soak up a different football culture, his Premier League methods and experience may suit Sociedad well, as will his pragmatism. Moyes proved at Everton that he could tailor his tactics to suit an opposition, or to suit the players at his disposal. Earlier in his reign, his side were tough to breakdown and low-scoring…a sort of slightly less rigid version of George Graham’s Arsenal. In the later years however, when he had access to players of greater technical quality such as Peinaar, Mirallas and Rooney, his teams started to play some more free-flowing stuff.
The Basque side he now takes charge of are a high-octane, pressing team who also know how to take care of the ball. Moyes must allow the side’s natural style of play to flourish, but after only two wins in their first 11 matches, he must be also toughen them up defensively.
Ultimately, this is a good move for all concerned. Sociedad have a manager of proven quality and a necessarily dab hand in the transfer market. The fact that he has a global name too is something which will not have escaped the marketing department. Meanwhile, Moyes has a stable club, talented young players to work with and not much to lose. The Basque side may have been in the Champions League last season and will want to return there, but they’ll also know how difficult a reality that is. With the ‘big two’ as well as Valencia and Atletico Madrid in the way, Moyes need only deliver a top six or seven finish to be considered on par. Anything beyond that will be a bonus and thought of as very successful. Succeeding at a Spanish club will open up an array of European clubs to him that may not have been convinced before.
Moyes will be derided in some circles for picking a so-called ‘hipster choice’ club when he had easier, more lucrative and more obvious options in the Premiership, and if he gets off to a bad start the English press will have a scornful field day. But we of the online football intelligencia (I kid, of course) should applaud both parties. Real Sociedad for making a bold and exciting choice, and David Moyes for abandoning the comfort zone in which so many British managers are happy to languish. The British game would be all the better if more managers took such steps. Here at Under The Cosh, we wish Real Moyesiedad all the very best.