uk managers abroad
Isolating himself in the five-star Hotel Maria Cristina and surrounding himself with English-speaking work buddies from the UK did for him in the end
Aweek into his new job with Real Sociedad, David Moyes is said to have been approached by one of the team’s English-speaking players after a training session and asked if he might have a word. Moyes proceeded to express his surprise at the astonishing English level of San Sebastián’s residents. The player asked him to elaborate. “Well, it’s really strange,” Moyes explained. “Every time I go out to the Old Part of the city to have some pintxos (tapas) and a drink, the people say to me ‘Sweaty David’. It’s amazing!” The player, despite having spent some time in the UK, was unaware of the Cockney slang phrase “sweaty sock” (jock) and asked Moyes to further elaborate. When he did, the player, trying hard to suppress his mirth, replied: “I think they’re saying ‘Suerte David’ (Good luck David).”
It’s easy to make fun of Moyes’ innocent provincialism, but the anecdote is a telling one. He wasn’t prepared for the variety of demands that moving abroad can entail, and his curious bunker-like behaviour over the next year – isolating himself in the five-star Hotel Maria Cristina and surrounding himself with English-speaking work buddies from the UK – did for him in the end, although his starry-eyed employers at Real Sociedad were also partly to blame.
Moyes lasted a bit longer in San Sebastián than his ten months in Manchester, staying 363 days and taking charge of 38 games – a whole season’s worth in total although he originally took over two months into 2014-15. During that time he managed 11 wins, 13 draws and 13 defeats. The record was neither tragic nor wonderful, but it was a disappointment for the club who had approached the resting Moyes as if he were some sort of guru. A year later, with a decent squad hovering just above the relegation zone having taken nine points from their first 11 games, president Jokin Aperribay reluctantly sacked the man he had personally
Culture clash David Moyes’ results at Real Sociedad were average, but it was his failure to adapt to Basque life that really cut short his time at the club
By Phil Bal
Top David Moyes cuts a lone figure in San Sebastián Above His warm welcome at Real Sociedad last year pursued, before the damage could set in permanently. The local press and the community had turned against Moyes, accusing him of not understanding where he was, and of failing to adapt in both sporting and cultural terms. They weren’t far off the mark.
A coach from inside the club complained that Moyes had arrived, “smiled a bit, shook our hands and then proceeded to bring all his mates over from England”. Moyes appointed Billy McKinlay as his second, and later Dave Billows as the fitness coach. In an interview with ESPN earlier this season, Moyes tellingly described the whole scene as wonderful. The food was great, the city and his hotel beautiful, and during the week he and McKinlay drove chummily around Spain scouting, watching opponents and “talking football”.
He appeared unaware of the obvious fact that to learn the language and to understand La Liga it might have been useful to have done this with a Spanish speaker – and preferably one from the club who understood the Spanish scene. Worse still, Moyes seemingly failed to appreciate the complexity of the club’s Basque identity. Indeed, it remains unclear whether he actually knew that he was in the Basque Coun-
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