The team were flying from Newcastle to Geneva en route to a pre-season training camp at Evian in eastern France late last month when their chartered aircraft developed a fault. “It sound like we were going over a cattle grid in the sky,” says Sam Allardyce’s successor.
“I thought: ‘Here we go.’ As a new manager you want things to be smooth on your first day but this was frightening. I wouldn’t laugh it off. The crew said they’d had to shut one engine down and we needed to make an emergency landing at Manchester. It was scary and it seemed to take ages and ages to get down. My first day in charge and I was looking for my parachute!”
Although the landing was executed safely, the array of ambulances and fire engines lined up by the runway emphasised the potential gravity of the situation and Moyes was suitably relieved when Sunderland’s replacement plane finally touched down in Geneva.
The former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad manager’s career has been in a fairly sharp descent of its own since his sacking after only 10 months at Old Trafford but Moyes refuses to buy into suggestions that Sunderland represents a “step down” .
“No, I see it as being the right opportunity at the right time,” says a man desperate to break Wearside’s perennial relegation skirmishes. “I genuinely think I can make a difference here and I think this club might just need me a little bit at this moment in time. We can build something.
“We’ve got an owner [Ellis Short] who has put a lot of money into this club over the years but has never really seen his team be successful. I don’t think we know what the owner would do if we did well. So let’s see if I can shock him and get us up the league. Let’s see if I can shock him into doing something where he thinks: ‘Wow’. But this is a monstrous challenge.”
Albeit in a different context, José Mourinho is arguably facing a similarly tough task at Manchester United but Moyes backs him to succeed where both he and Louis van Gaal failed. “It’s a good appointment,” he says. “José’s taking over the biggest club in the world but he’s been a really successful manager. He’s up there. He’s very good. But I believed I was a very good fit, so you never know.”
Sunderland are still to make a signing this summer and Moyes may find attracting players to the Stadium of Light somewhat harder than luring them to Old Trafford. Many people believe this is primarily down to geography but the Scot demurs, maintaining it is much more about the instability that makes him Sunderland’s seventh manager in five chaotic years.
“People want to come and play for good teams, they want to play for coaches they trust,” he says. “They don’t want clubs to be changing managers every six months. Stable clubs attract better players. If we can achieve stability at Sunderland I’m sure good players will want to come here.”
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