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West Ham wants the David Moyes of old, but does that man still exist?

The problem of the four Moyeses.

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Hull City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Somewhere deep in the collective subconscious of those who run Premier League football clubs, there is a dream. A dream of David Moyes.

This dream is, in some ways, a modest one. It is the dream of a manager who is given a job with limited horizons and on the whole gets it right. A dream that regularly finishes at the top of mid-table, that puts together occasional cup runs, that makes it into the Europa League and occasionally threatens to break into the Champions League.

It is, at heart, a dream of security. And given the Premier League is a turbulent place, bounded at the top by velvet ropes and at the bottom by the slavering maw of relegation, it's quite a seductive dream.

It is the dream of Everton Moyes, and to be fair to everybody who's ever believed in it, it did actually happen. In Moyes’ 11 full seasons in charge, Everton finished seventh, 17th, fourth, 11th, sixth, fifth, fifth, eighth, seventh, seventh, and sixth. That run of seasons didn't bring any silverware, but nonetheless, it’s a record that 14 of 20 Premier League boardrooms would kill for.

There used to be a mural in a pub in Liverpool describing Moyes as "a boss that proves you don't need trophies to be a winner but he is a winner". That might sound a little incoherent, but there for everybody to see is the Premier League's reality. There are the big clubs, and then there is the mezzanine level, above mid-table but below the top, where you must be a winner without winning. (The mural was destroyed in an arson attack in 2014.)

So you can sort of see where West Ham's ownership is coming from in its decision to hire Moyes this week to replace the departed Slaven Bilic. The problem is that believing in this dream now, in Nov. 2017, requires some serious effort. Everton Moyes may be the right manager for plenty of teams, but these days he travels in the malodorous company of his brothers: Manchester United Moyes, Real Sociedad Moyes, and most recently and spectacularly, Sunderland Moyes. And nobody wants those Moyeses around their football club.

To believe in Everton Moyes, one has to find some way of ignoring these other disastrous Moyeses. It can be done, just about, for Manchester United Moyes. Sure, the football was bland and useless. Yes, the team went from first to seventh. And fine, he spent the entire time saying things like "United must improve in a number of areas, including passing, creating chances and defending," which translated means "help, help, I'm trapped, I don't know what I'm doing.” But who wouldn't have?

The job of managing Manchester United after Alex Ferguson was perhaps the biggest and most overwhelming position modern football has ever produced, and Moyes didn't offer it to himself. Nor could he turn it down once it had been offered. The responsibility lies with those who made that weird decision, and the fact that Moyes wasn't up to it tells us only that he wasn't, and isn't, superhuman.

Everton Moyes, of course, has never promised to be superhuman. He promises only sweet, sweet competence.

As for Real Sociedad, that's an easy one to wave away. Brave of him to take the gig; a shame he never really got the hang of the language; a pity it didn't work out. At its heart, English football is always suspicious of taking anything that happens anywhere else too seriously, good or bad.

This is why Pep Guardiola had to come to the Premier League to prove himself. And this is why the sight of Moyes shouting "Stefano! Stefano!" at a side that contained not a single Stefano can be so easily swallowed, digested, and flushed away. Everybody's done something similar on holiday, right? Right?

In any case, Everton Moyes never claimed to be able to work in La Liga. He's as Premier League as they come.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The sticking point is Sunderland, and it's so sticky even Blackadder might struggle to get his point across. Sunderland Moyes is insistent, forthright, and very persuasive. And ignoring him requires either that we accept that Sunderland were, at that moment in time, fundamentally unmanageable, or that West Ham Moyes will have learned from the experience and won't make the same mistakes again.

The first? Well, Sunderland weren't very good when Moyes took over, and have continued to decline afterward — they now sit bottom of the Championship with 10 points from 16 games and are looking, once again, for a manager.

But Moyes followed Sam Allardyce into the job, and Allardyce, in just a few months, had tidied up Sunderland from a relegation-bound rabble into a semblance of a football team. In the process, he had demonstrated that this collection of players were capable of responding positively to competent management. No, they weren't good. But under Moyes they were horrible.

The second is even harder to work around. For the mistakes of Sunderland Moyes weren't just hugely damaging to Sunderland and to his own job prospects. They were poisonous reputation-trashers: the kind of mistakes that leak back through time and make everything that came before look worse. When he came out and talked down his team and his prospects, just a few games into the season, he confirmed a pattern: I don't manage footballers upward. I manage expectations downward.

When he dipped back into the transfer market for the same players he'd relied upon elsewhere, then picked those ahead of other better players he didn't want or wouldn't care to work with, he confirmed a pattern: I don't have admirable loyalty. I have a crippling lack of imagination.

And when his team sat deep in their own half, afraid to try to win must-win games; when he lamented his team's inability to head the ball; when he decided that his midfield was missing "Britishness", whatever the hell that is, he confirmed a pattern: I don't really know how to win games. And now I don't even know how not to lose them.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Perhaps most confusing from a West Ham perspective is that his Sunderland side seemed to lack precisely the thing he is being brought into West Ham to offer: energy. Indeed, he was described by one of his Sunderland charges as an "energy vampire.” Looking at West Ham's performances so far this season, there must be a real concern that he'll starve to death.

None of this necessarily diminishes his achievements at Everton, but it does rather serve to suggest that they were of their time, and of a certain confluence of circumstances. The Premier League was a very different place — poorer, more parochial, less furiously tight at the bottom — when he took over at Goodison Park in 2002. And that was the last time that anybody appointed David Moyes to a managerial position and didn't have cause to regret it.

The idea that Everton Moyes can escape from his malignant brothers is a seductive dream. It is certainly an indulgence that would not be granted to any managers outside the backslapping merry-go-round of British football men.

But given just how badly it went at Sunderland, it looks an awful lot like a delusional fantasy of a time long gone and a manager who failed to change as the world changed around him, then became brutally exposed. There is only one Moyes, both Everton and Sunderland. And the nightmare of the latter is still fresh in the memory.