West Ham boss David Moyes needs to transform London Stadium into a fortress

by Andy Dillon / 24 November 2017, 11:20

THE FIRST RULE of football management is to make your home ground as much a fortress as it can be.

Burnley stayed in the Premier League on it last season, Jose Mourinho was unshakeable at Stamford Bridge for years as Chelsea boss; Tottenham didn’t lose a home match in the league all last season.

So when things aren’t going well it is the home games you look forward to most - to stem the seeping fear of draining confidence; to restore belief, to terrorise the opposition.

Unless of course you are the manager of West Ham United.

David Moyes takes charge of his first match at the now notorious London Stadium tonight against Leicester, a team in and around them at the bottom end of the table.

It should be a home banker but then this is the week that the deep-rooted problems at one of English football’s most archetypal working class clubs have come boiling to the top in an outpouring of blunt language, in-fighting and accusations.

It’s nothing particularly new of course. West Ham has always mirrored the plot of Eastenders, only with better acting.

What is interesting to note is that Moyes is up against recent history as well as a stadium nobody likes, filled with fans who don’t like him, or the players, or the people who run the club.

What may worry the new manager just a touch is that the last three men who filled his job before him all lost their first league game at home.

For recently departed Slaven Bilic it was ironically a 2-1 home defeat to this evening’s opponents Leicester; Sam Allardyce’s opening day nightmare was being beaten by Cardiff in the Championship. And Avram Grant was sunk 3-1 at home to Bolton in 2010.

And those three blokes all had the heavily hyped roar of 35,000 Cockneys to will them on. Moyes has a loveless, rented concrete bowl in the middle of a sterile, windblown Olympic Park in Stratford.

The last West Ham boss to enjoy a winning debut in front of the hard-to-please West Ham crowd was Gianfranco Zola in September 2008 with a 3-1 win over Newcastle.

And The Hammers have been totally transformed from those days.

The word ‘toxic’ has been flying around all week to describe the poison that is seeping through every pore at the club which produced the only World Cup winning captain for England, and which once prided itself as a ‘family club’ and traded under the self-styled ‘Academy’ banner.

From producing its own players to either carry the team forwards or to sell onto bigger and better clubs, West Ham is now a team full of journeymen. Funnily enough, that is exactly how the new manager is seen - as an out of work Scotsman forced to sign a six months contract on a suck it and see basis.

From shaping Everton in his own image, to taking over the reins at Manchester United and failing after giving it his best, to popping up in Spain for a year and a disastrous relegation campaign with Sunderland.

Moyes is now pinning his hopes on working a miracle, on turning around a club that is in serious freefall; losing its identity with the fans, seeing the things it once stood for melting away and being ripped apart at the seams by civil war.

It’s arguably the biggest game of Moyes’ career. He has one chance at trying to turn around a vast, failing corporation with tonight’s game. He has one shot.

But that’s still more than West Ham’s players manage most weeks.

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