With David Moyes reign at West Ham off to an absolute flier at the weekend, (can you sense the sarcasm from where you are?), it’s probably a good time to reflect on how Slaven (and coach Julian Dicks), stands with the fans whilst asking the question, “Are former players worth the risk in management, both for the club and for them?”.

Off the bat I have to say I’m not quite sure how in some quarters Slaven was given “legend” status when if you look at others who were in the squad at the same time. Marc Rieper for example, was around for longer, gave better service but wouldn’t be regaled in the same way. Throw in the move to Everton and it’s fair to say the amount of adulation that came his way when appointed was puzzling to say the least.

However, he returned as Manager like the prodigal son and also brought Julian along as a coach which I felt was a really smart move at the time, knowing how the fan base feel about the Terminator. However, sat here now, with Slav gone, two and half progressively worsening seasons behind us and the club left in the relegation zone how do I feel about “Super, Super Slav” now especially now the management gamble has failed, is his West Ham legacy as a whole tarnished now?

I think for me it is I’m afraid but then again, as previously mentioned I didn’t wax lyrical about him in the same way as many others to begin with. Defeat after defeat, drubbing after drubbing, as a supporter it’s hard to be enthusiastic about Slav anymore and that is the way of things when you put it all on black and it comes up red on the roulette wheel of football management.

In regards to Julian, how the supporters regard him after an inauspicious period as a member of the coaching staff? For me, I think Julian had so much goodwill from the supporters for his years of service as a player, he could quite literally get away with murder and still be held up as THE West Ham personality of the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s but I certainly feel there are questions to be asked about his contribution to the team as a coach and I say this in the knowledge that Julian is my all-time favourite player.

So this got me thinking about former players who have become managers. We have traditionally been a club that likes to promote from within, going all the way back to Syd King, who was a former player of West Ham and of the Ironworks. So the question is, in light of my change of opinion about Slav, are former players worth the risk as managers now for both the club and the individuals themselves if it means they could jeopardise the goodwill built up over years of service for the club on the playing side of the white lines.

Billy Bonds for example is up there with the very best in our history as a player, held the FA Cup aloft twice, most appearances, played till the age of 41 and captained the side for an era too, quite literally a Superman in Claret and Blue. Was an ok manager too, two promotion winning campaigns but tempered with a relegation season too. However, I remember his star falling somewhat after Harry Redknapp came in and eventually took the reins.

Seems strange to say now, as he is back in vogue with the supporters (and rightly so), but for a few years there with Redknapp taking the team to Europe and numerous top half finishes Bill sadly dropped off the radar for a while for some. Amazing how a bit of success can turn your head and forget an old flame but if history teaches us anything, it’s that the special ones are the ones that you remember fondly when all is said and done and such is the case with Bonzo, as he finally gets some well-deserved recognition of late from the current Board.

Talking of Harry, he for me appears to be one of those Marmite characters for West Ham fans, some like me, see him as someone who whilst giving us some amazing memories during a period of success, ultimately drove the club towards financial ruin with his wheeling and dealing only to bail when the Board were forced to rein the spending in. Others however, think he is still the answer, a name I regularly see on the forums and social media channels as an option for return to manager, even as recently as following the Bilic dismissal.

I think the way he left the club coupled with his later arrival at Spurs finally proved beyond the pale for many of us and his playing and managing legacy for me remains tarnished beyond repair. Alan Curbishley for me is a good example of a former player increasing his standing with West Ham supporters as a result of a return as a manager for a short but successful period.

Plotting the unlikely Great Escape in 06-07 after a midseason appointment followed by a tenth place finish the season after, Curbishley seemed to steering the club in the right direction but board interference (see, it’s not a new phenomenon) in selling players against his wishes led Curbs to jump ship but I would suggest he did so with this integrity and legacy intact, especially after winning his case for constructive dismissal.

Sir Trev is probably the best example of how to play the managerial game as a former player, making it clear that you don’t want the job full time but ensuring that you would do everything in your power to change the results and improve the picture for the club. I remember the toxic atmosphere around Upton Park at the time of Glenn Roeder and spent most of that season with my head in hands…..but Brooking changed that at the end of the season when he came in to relieve Roeder after illness and whilst we were relegated he continued that good form when he was asked to replace the recuperated Roeder again.

An overall win percentage of over 64% puts him far ahead of all other West Ham managers and whilst the relatively small amount of games played means it’s difficult to judge against those who managed for longer periods, I think it’s fair to say that as a player, manager and personality, Sir Trev can literally do no wrong.

One thing that being a former player does do is afford you some time with the fans, something I think David Moyes will sorely need but as an outsider it is something he is unlikely to receive. When I was having my initial doubts about the appointment of Moyes, I tried to think about those I would rather have in than the Scotsman and I thought about reappointing Pardew or Allardyce on short term deals, I even let the thought of Paolo Di Canio, (we need passion and inspiration but even I can see that this is a job too far for PDC), cross my mind for a second too, something I was dead against a few years ago.

I guess it really illustrates that as fans we are creatures of habit and are naturally drawn towards the devils we know. The gut feeling I have about Moyes is the same feeling I had about Macari, Roeder, Avram Grant….not likely to inspire, will not instil confidence but most of all not “West Ham”…sometimes we are really are our own worst nightmare at times like this.


By David Yems



By Gonzo

West Ham fan for as long as I can remember. I was flukey enough to watch The Irons beat Bury 10-0 in my first ever game . . . True to form, West Ham then went out and signed their central defender 😬

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