On a recent visit to the National Library of Scotland, I came across a single unsold copy of Anne Graham and Michael Hamilton's My Scotland: By Its Famous Sons and Daughters,
and was reminded of David Moyes's contribution to this 'coffee table' book of captivating photographs and interviews with 58 famous Scots.
In his chapter, written in 2015 during his short, ill-fated spell as head coach of Real Sociedad in San Sebastián, Moyes recalls his childhood in leafy Bearsden, memories of shops and nightclubs in Glasgow, his love of Loch Lomond, and the energy and industriousness of his parents. As Moyes later noted, he absorbed his parents' core beliefs during a happy and contented childhood, in a family 'embedded in volunteer work' through his father's coaching of Drumchapel Amateurs and lecturing in engineering at the now-defunct Anniesland College in the West End of Glasgow.
Born in Thornwood in April 1963, Moyes has been described as a 'classic urchin-like Scottish laddie, playing football on the street during the week and in the local park on Sundays'. Having played as a centre-back for the 101st Company of the Boys Brigade, Glasgow Schools, and the Scottish Schoolboy XI, Moyes passed through 'The Drum' before being picked up by Celtic as a 17-year-old in 1980, playing 35 games and winning the Scottish Premier Division title in 1981/82.
Moyes told West Ham TV in July 2021 – when the 'Cockney Boys' beat 'the Bhoys' 6-2 at Celtic Park in a pre-season friendly – that he was not a 'big name player' and suggested that 'I wouldn't put myself down as a heck of a player'. He played nearly 600 games during his career and was a highly-regarded captain of the Scotland Under-18 team.
As Iain Munro, a fellow graduate of 'The Drum' and his manager at Dunfermline Athletic for a year, told the Mail Online
in 2013, Moyes was an old-fashioned centre-half who compensated for his lack of pace by being able to 'read the game tremendously well' and 'always willing to do extra'. From the age of 17, Moyes was also a fixture at Largs as a 'Runner' and then a wannabe coach at the Inverclyde National Sports Centre, headed by mentor and friend, Andy Roxburgh, from 1975 to 1994.
Over 20 years on from his last game as a player, it is evident that those attributes continue to stand Moyes in good stead as a coach as he restores his reputation as one of the most highly regarded managers in the Premier League era after miserable spells at Manchester United and Sunderland. As Mark Godfrey wrote in Football Pink
in June 2013, Moyes relates to another Drum alumni, Sir Alex Ferguson, through the 'working-class beliefs of self-discipline and hard work'. These have been the driving reasons why Scotland has seen 36 of its sons manage in the Premier League while Wales and Northern Ireland can boast just 16 combined.
Being hewn from the same Glasgow stone as Scotland's, and most probably Britain's, greatest ever football manager hasn't escaped attention throughout Moyes's career and inspired countless profiles on his appointment at Old Trafford in June 2013. Perhaps Alan Fraser put it best in May 2013, when he noted that both are 'products of archetypal West of Scotland working-class families, both socialists, both brought up to know the importance of respect, discipline and a strong work ethic, both good but by no means top players and both renowned man-managers'.
As Craig Brown, the ex-Scotland manager who succeeded Moyes at Preston in 2002, once noted, Glaswegian managers are renowned for their 'honesty, bluntness even, and work ethic'. Ian McCall told The Guardian
that Moyes is 'meticulous, exceptionally driven and has real strength of character'. Graham Alexander once recalled that, rather than showering him with praise when he signed for Preston in 1999, Moyes showered him with 'what was wrong with my game and how he would make me better… and never let up'.
As an until-recently long-suffering West Ham fan, David Moyes has become a surprisingly important figure in my life since his reappointment as manager of West Ham United in December 2019. Allying old-school values and a hands-on style with the most up-to-date coaching and fitness regimes, the 'Moyesiah' (as his Claret and Blue Army have dubbed him) is steadily becoming a cult hero in the East End of London. He has taken West Ham from the brink of relegation to an extremely well-organised, highly credible contender for the Champions League in just under two years.
Having profiled dozens of famous Scots for Scottish Review
over the last couple of years, it strikes me that Moyes is the first of my subjects still operating today and continuing to excel south of the border. Despite having played and worked in England for most of his career, it seems to me that it is distinctly Scottish values, infused into a young Moyes beside the Clyde, that have made him such a hit with the faithful in E20 at a club founded as the working-class company team of the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company in 1895.
Sceptics could argue that, after hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment in the playing squad under his predecessor, Manuel Pellegrini, the stars simply aligned for Moyes on his return to the London Stadium. However, the Scotsman's stamp is clearly visible in East London. The emphasis on signing 'grafters' like Jarrod Bowen and the 'Czech Mates' (Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal), as well as the continued development of Declan Rice and the conversion of Michail Antonio into a liberated and unpredictable centre-forward, has transformed West Ham's fortunes.
Likewise, as Moyes told The Times
on reaching 1,000 games in management, his interest in management theory has led him to adapt his own style of leadership in order to be 'more positive, a better communicator, and more approachable' than he had been at Sunderland and Manchester United.
In contrast to much of the last decade, David Moyes has ensured that West Ham can now 'endure setbacks without the threat of unravelling and that resilience has underlined all their success'. A recent example of this is when they twice fought back from behind to beat the Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday. As Andy Kershaw noted in The Independent
on Monday 6 December, West Ham may seem a 'little old fashioned' compared to the clubs in and around them in the Top 4, but their performances show that Moyes has built 'a machine fit for all terrain, and there are few signs of it slowing down yet'.
Tom Chidwick is a contemporary historian, who splits his time between London and Edinburgh. He is currently writing a history of the 1979 referendum on the creation of a Scottish Assembly