There was, of course, much to idolise. McNeill was the dream role model at Celtic: the first British captain to hoist the European Cup. He was tall, authoritative, closing in on imperious, with a back that was fashioned out of a ramrod.
You are not allowed such idolatry in a football dressing room, however, without there being a payback from the less charitable elements of this crazy place. Moyes was promptly rechristened Billy McMoyes.
I’m trying to find some charity in me and therefore won’t criticise him for hero worship of Big Billy. It’s quite natural to have heroes. Listen, when I do my wee, if infrequent, spots of karaoke in a certain tavern, I imagine myself as Glasgow’s answer to Michael Buble. In my mind, if no-one else’s, I am Michael Buble. I’m not so sure the Canadian would give me a similar endorsement.
Getting back to the point of this blog, however, you imagine that Davie (or his alter ego Billy McMoyes), in his new situation at Manchester United, would want to replicate the bearing of his one-time hero. Instead, he looks very alone, even isolated, at the moment.
As United head towards a Premier League appointment at Chelsea this Sunday, some recent memories of him are less than flattering. When they played and lost to Swansea in the FA Cup, the TV cameras were panning in on him and he looked more facially distraught than I’ve ever seen him.
It didn’t seem to me as if there was anyone to help him in that dug-out. And that, to me, was his first big mistake. To bring someone in with you to Old Trafford is one thing, but to turn over most of the backroom staff must have caused some upheaval, because these people had been there for some time and had developed relationships with the players.
You know what the Dutch are like. They love each other. Well, most of them do. The talk flying about the business is that Robin Van Persie is not happy that Rene Meulensteen (now manager of Fulham) was bagged – if in fact this was the case. I see Moyes claimed recently that it was the Dutchman’s own decision to leave. Indict me as a cynic if you choose, but I can’t say I’m altogether convinced of that.
And what about Mike Phelan, Fergie’s assistant? He has made noises that he would like to have moved out on his own, but he hasn’t got a job yet. Shouldn’t there have been a place for him in that Theatre of Dreams, even if it wasn‘t plum centre of the orchestra stalls? So I imagine there might every well be a bit of disquiet in the dressing room over their twin departures.
Whatever, Moyes had people in there who’d been over the course and knew what was required. They were very good at their jobs: Fergie wouldn’t have kept them if they had been dummies. He was a damned good manager, and liked to keep damned good people around him. Yet roughly a week after Moyes was appointed, they were out.
In came people like Phil Neville, who hadn’t even been on the Everton coaching staff for very long, Steve Round and Jimmy Lumsden. Coaching-wise, they’re about as anonymous as David Cameron’s PR assistants.
Now, people have suggested that the team which won last season’s Premier League was the worst in the history of that Premier League. Well, if that were true, it must have had a good backroom staff to get them across the line. The help that they could have supplied to the newcomer would have been very beneficial at this moment. But that’s gone and Moyes finds himself behind the eight ball. Whether he is good enough to escape from this tricky situation is another matter.
Do I feel sorry for him? No. I can’t say I’d extend empathy to any managers. They’re paid plenty and are old enough to understand the rules. Davie, for me, is not my kind of guy: he’s a bit of a cold fish, but I must admit I was quite impressed by him before he secured the biggest job in English football. He had an extended time at Everton and probably was in line for a long-service medal from the dear old chairman, Bill Kenwright. Yeah, he did very well, although, significantly, he didn’t fill up the mantle-piece full of silverware. But Everton is an entirely different animal from United.
In many ways, I was surprised at his appointment. Should I have been surprised? Perhaps not. Let’s be honest: there wasn’t a queue the length ofSauchiehall Street of managers with the right credentials who were pushing themselves forward. People in the game thought it was like trying to follow Frank Sinatra at a karaoke (there I go again). Who would want that kind of responsibility?
They would be following the most successful manager in the game. Ever. God in a tracksuit. The percentages state that you’ll never live up to such high expectations. No, the managers who should have been in the frame –JoseMourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Fabio Capello – would have been thinking to themselves: “No, after you – I’ll let someone else have it before I have it.”
Smart thinking from them. I don’t believe for a moment that Davie Moyes would have been No 1 on the list. There would have been others, but any approaches would have been all done on the quiet. How many more names were on his list? One thing is certain: Alex Ferguson wouldn’t have picked someone who would have refused him.
But ask yourself this question (it comes with a 50,000-dollar price tag): would Alex Ferguson have followed himself at Old Trafford? Oh, I very much doubt it.
When he was in situ, Fergie had the power and, being the kind of person I think he is, he would have enjoyed that power. He thrived on being all-seeing and all-conquering. Listen, you couldn’t change the toilet rolls in the Old Trafford dressing room without it being run by him..
Now we’re in a situation where someone else has come in and maybe he’s not having the same response. Fergie got an extra 50-60 per cent out of those players last season. Davie Moyes isn’t getting the same.
You would love to be a fly on the various walls of Old Trafford. What is the situation between Moyes and Ferguson right now, for instance? Well, I imagine they’ll be trying to avoid each other. Fergie can’t be seen to be chapping on the manager’s door and, if things aren’t all that good within the squad right now, certainly Billy McMoyes can’t be seen to be chapping on Ferguson’s door. That would be a sign of potential weakness.
So I’d imagine they would be avoiding one another rather than partaking of a glass of wine after every match. That’s the way they’d love it to be, with Man U rolling over the top of people every week. And the fact is that the team will have to return to those ways before Davie Moyes can be considered a success and any kind of worthy successor to Alex Ferguson.
So Davie Moyes is desperately looking for heroes to pull himself out of the soft stuff. But first, as the M People song indicates, he must search for the hero inside himself – if one, other than Billy McNeill, exists.