'Moyes receives fitting send-off at end of West Ham era'

West Ham now are a different club to the one Moyes returned to in December 2019.

In Summary

•The warm and genuine acknowledgement of a job well done came back from the stands. The majority of a 60,000-plus crowd remained long after the final whistle.

•Insiders say it is realistic for West Ham to believe they can challenge the 'big six

West Ham's head coach David Moyes
West Ham's head coach David Moyes

A lovely warm day, a clear blue sky, a thrilling victory and a final goal from a home-grown youngster. It could not have gone much better.

As he made his way around the pitch, trailing his players on their annual end-of-season lap of appreciation, Moyes waved at fans, having signed autographs beforehand.

The warm and genuine acknowledgement of a job well done came back from the stands. The majority of a 60,000-plus crowd remained long after the final whistle.

They did not need to be told to pay Moyes due respect. Their growing irritation at negative results and performances was set aside in justifiable recognition of the superb job Moyes has done over the past four and a half years.

West Ham now are a different club to the one Moyes returned to in December 2019. They have had three European campaigns and, famously, won their first trophy in 43 years.

But even last summer, Moyes knew some fans wanted him to move on. That number has grown significantly over the second half of this season, during which time they have won four of 20 domestic matches.

It was similar last term, when they won five out of 20 domestic games, culminating in a four-goal hammering at Brighton. This is not to downplay the job Moyes has done. This season alone, West Ham have beaten Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United. Two weeks ago, they drew with Liverpool. They are assured of a top-10 finish for the third time in four years.

But West Ham are a different club now. Their aspirations are greater.

"David Moyes has done a good job and when you see what has happened to Aston Villa, it shows how hard winning a European trophy is," said Kent-based fan Philip Gambrill before the Luton game.

"But he doesn't use his substitutes and he hasn't played the young lads.

"Maybe we don't have the strength in depth other clubs have but the fans still don't understand why. I think most do accept it is time for it to end.”

'Expectations raised from survival to Europe'

Insiders say it is realistic for West Ham to believe they can challenge the 'big six'. That does not mean it is where they expect to finish but that, if stars aligned, they could.

This season, when Manchester United, Chelsea and Newcastle have all struggled for extended periods, it has been a disappointment the Hammers have faded out of the European qualification picture.

West Ham would have helped themselves, the argument goes, if they had not sold Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma in January, only to find themselves short of attacking options as the season reached its crucial phase.

This ignores the fact that Fornals wanted to leave because he had not been playing and Benrahma was unhappy because he had not been starting.

West Ham were not to know the cumulative effort required across three seasons that included European football would hit Moyes' squad in quite the way it has. The form of some reliable performers across that time has dipped sharply.

The loss of Declan Rice last summer did not appear so bad in the first half of the season when James Ward-Prowse and Edson Alvarez excelled.

But both have slipped from those levels - Alvarez had won the Concacaf Gold Cup with Mexico last summer which is a factor - and Rice's absence has been noticed more.

Moyes tried to address that by bringing Kalvin Phillips on loan from Manchester City in January, but the move has been a failure.

There are some youngsters from last season's FA Youth Cup-winning team who it is felt have a chance of establishing themselves at Premier League level.

George Earthy’s goal against Luton hinted at his promise. But there is sympathy for Moyes' view it is too early to trust them regularly.

It all came to a head over a tough fortnight where elimination from the Europa League at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen was followed by an abject defensive performance at Crystal Palace and a five-goal hammering at Chelsea, which, after the Luton game, Moyes described as "rank rotten".

The dwindling hopes of European qualification focused the minds of the club and it was decided a change had to be made, which will eventually see Julen Lopetegui replace Moyes.

"Hopefully people will say expectations have increased," said Moyes of his time in charge.

"When I came the task was to keep West Ham in the Premier League. Now this is a club saying we want to be in Europe every year. That is a big turnaround in three or four years.

"West Ham has so much potential and room to improve. I hope the next step is going upwards and giving them the chance to get something new.

"We have started to get dizzy thinking about Europe as something we should achieve every year."

Lopetegui set to lead West Ham into new era

It is hard to argue against West Ham's thought process. Unlike many clubs, they do not have profit and sustainability concerns thanks to the Rice deal.

It is also acknowledged that this summer was going to be one of change on the playing side, with Flynn Downes and Freddie Potts returning from what is viewed as productive loan spells at Southampton and Wycombe respectively.

It has been stressed numerous times Moyes had no issues with technical director Tim Steidten. The pair have maintained a professional relationship but evidently, Moyes believes the role of a manager should include a heavy influence on recruitment.

His thoughts on the matter were often not aligned with Steidten's. In the end, Moyes barred the German from the first-team areas, which is not a workable arrangement over the long term.

Given his experience at Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen, West Ham feel it is right that Steidten should oversee this summer's changes. His role in Lopetegui's recruitment has been clear.

West Ham feels they are in a good position to build on the blocks Moyes has put in place.

Like any manager, Lopetegui will be judged on performances and results. He will also be judged from the outside on whether he has improved on Moyes' work.

But this is a new West Ham. And after next weekend's trip to Manchester City, it will be a new era.