If West Ham’s owners were banking on a change of manager delivering a much-needed surge of positivity, they might have underestimated the depth of disgruntlement at the struggling Premier League club.
The arrival of David Moyes might have made the atmosphere worse, if anything.
Moyes largely escaped the vitriol of the fans during his first game in charge, a 2-0 loss at Watford on Sunday. Instead, that was directed at his players and the club’s hierarchy.
Chants of “You’ve destroyed our club,” ”Sack the board,” and “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” rang out from the away support at Vicarage Road as West Ham slumped to a seventh loss in 12 league games this season.
Even a local police force hasn’t escaped.
“Ringing 999 (the emergency number in Britain) because WestHamUtd have lost again and you aren’t sure what to do is not acceptable!” Essex Police posted on Twitter. “It is a complete waste of our time.”
The new coach might just be wondering what he has walked into.
Moyes is looking to rebuild a managerial reputation that was tarnished by failed spells in charge of Manchester United and Sunderland in the Premier League. Sandwiched between them was a stint at Spanish club Real Sociedad that also didn’t last a year.
Yet, it is clear West Ham is in turmoil both on and off the field, something Moyes must be aware of now.
Increasingly renowned for making blunt and honest assessments, Moyes has already been critical of summer signing Marko Arnautovic, told the senior players to take more responsibility, and underscored his intention to work his players harder in training after arriving as a replacement for the fired Slaven Bilic.
He didn’t hold back after the Watford game, either.
“Some big players with big reputations disappointed me a lot,” Moyes said, without naming names. “I thought they would show me more. They need to show me why they have got that reputation.
“I don’t enjoy the performance and I expected us to do better. We tried to stay in the game and give ourselves a chance — and we probably did — but overall it was not good enough.”
Moyes is not a manager to massage players’ egos. He says things as he sees them, something the mega-rich stars of the Premier League aren’t used to these days.
“I’ve just not got any time for any nonsense,” Moyes said before the Watford game. “I’m not going to be pampering to any needs. I can’t be bothered.”
“The only way I am going to get results,” he added, “is if those players give me the chance to get them. I am certainly not pussyfooting around with them.”
A loss in his first game is far from the ideal start, especially in that toxic atmosphere, and the schedule is about to get tougher for Moyes and West Ham, which is in third-to-last place in the standings.
After a home match against Leicester and a trip to Everton, West Ham plays Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in successive matches in early December.
Moyes needs Javier Hernandez, the team’s most prolific striker, to quickly recover from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss out this weekend. He needs to sort out a defense that has conceded more goals than any other Premier League team this season. He also needs to figure out if tall, powerful striker Andy Carroll is going to be a player he will revolve his game plan around.
Then, Moyes needs the backing of West Ham’s fans. He has already made a call for unity.
“I don’t know the history and the reasons for that,” he said of the supporters’ anger. “I thought they were supportive of me, and I’m thankful for that. But we need them now, we need a united club.
“We need to find a way of making sure we get together. The club needs to be together.”
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80