David Moyes is under enormous pressure with his West Ham side locked in a relegation battle, but the board’s position is making the entire situation worse.
The Hammers are a point outside the relegation zone and the manager had lost the travelling fans after the 4-0 capitulation at Brighton on Saturday (4 March).
He is also reportedly losing the dressing room with players unhappy about his defensive tactics, feeling that the Scot’s caution is holding them back [Guardian, 6 March].
And yet David Sullivan and the Hammers board are backing the manager, with Jacob Steinberg writing in The Guardian on Monday: “West Ham remain determined to give Moyes time. Part of their reasoning is that they are unable to identify suitable alternatives.”
Backing a manager as a positive decision is one thing, and in many ways might be seen as admirable amid a culture of hiring and firing.
But sticking with the incumbent because of a failure to find any alternative options is not good enough, especially when Premier League survival is in genuine danger.
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It may or may not be the right decision to keep Moyes at this point, but simply leaving things the way they are because you haven’t got a contingency plan is no decision at all.
Over the past two seasons the manager has built up a lot of credit at the London Stadium, and rightly so, with European qualification and a run to the semi-final of the Europa League.
But what equally cannot be disputed is that dropping from threatening the Champions League positions to risking relegation in the space of a year is alarming, and especially poor when provided with a record summer spend to finally flesh out a thin squad.
New arrivals don’t automatically mean success, and it is true that injuries have got in the way of a lot over the course of the season.
But at no point this season have West Ham been consistently good, so it was on the board to at least start investigating the possibility of how they would proceed if they needed to move on from Moyes.
The six-week break for the World Cup provided a perfect opportunity to see who might be available and interested if necessary, with the 2-0 defeat at home to Leicester on 12 November leaving the Irons a point outside the bottom three at that stage.
If the board want to back Moyes on merit, fine. That decision might be unpopular with an increasing contingent of the fanbase, but it would at least give the manager some stability.
But as fans boo and the dressing room apparently heads towards mutiny, the board have left the club with the worst of all worlds and a lame-duck manager if the message coming out repeatedly is: ‘We would fire you if we knew what to do next’.