Welcome to Tuesday Team Talk. Every week, the H+K Sports team will give a unique perspective on the stories making the headlines across the world of sport.
To date, David Moyes’ only honour as a manager (discounting the Community Shield) is the Division Two title with Preston North End that took them into what is now the Championship. Fast forward 17 years, and an unfortunate series of events since he was appointed ‘The Chosen One’ by Manchester United is likely now to lead him back to the second tier of English football with Sunderland.
Like his biblical namesake, David requires something miraculous to defeat the Goliath of inevitability. He has trodden a difficult path since being dumped by United. Managing in San Sebastian wasn’t exactly a holiday and the weekend’s defeat to his old club saw the Scandinavian Sebastian shown red. All in all, impending relegation has left the former Everton boss’ credibility as a manager is at its nadir.
His reputation isn’t too hot, either, which brings us onto last week’s controversy that surrounded the Scot and his post-match interview with a female reporter. She had asked him a fair question about his paymaster’s presence at the match he had just witnessed his team lose. The resulting attempted quip that happened off air was ill-judged and ignorant at best, horribly sexist at worst. Managers like Moyes have to understand that in a football community that is more diverse than ever, comments like the ones he made have absolutely no place.
It is very rare for a manager not to experience peaks and troughs throughout their career. Even for men as previously untouchable as Jose Mourinho and, to a lesser extent, Pep Guardiola, the past year or so have left their previously lauded approaches as managers exposed to the harsh winds of criticism.
In Mourinho’s situation, his torrid final season at Chelsea brought out a darker side to him when he suggested Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro didn’t understand football. Again, attacking a woman in a position of authority was thoughtless at best, blatantly bigoted at worst. The two parties later reached a discrimination settlement. In other words, the Portuguese knew he was out of order and presumably paid significantly for it, financially and otherwise.
But how does football approach such a sensitive subject in the long run? The immediate problem is the perception that the powers that be aren’t doing enough already. This is largely brought about by punishments to a variety of past transgressions being seen as too lenient or too harsh. John Terry got a four game ban for the Anton Ferdinand saga. Jonjo Shelvey received five and a £100,000 fine. However, Tyrone Mings’s stamp on Ibrahimovic was deemed bad enough to also warrant five games out of the Burnley team, while Luis Suarez’s errant teeth led to a 10 game suspension.
But this perception is not entirely accurate, as in England the FA has since introduced clarity on its disciplinary measures. So too has UEFA. But what of the clubs? With regards to sexism, although the female game is growing it is not anywhere near the profile of men’s football. Clubs do have the influence to bring about positive change, seen with Crystal Palace’s support of its LGBT supporters’ group Proud and Palace.
But it can’t be right that United, arguably the world’s biggest, does not have a female football team. How then can it credibly leverage its global influence to tackle sexism and discrimination in football, should a similar misdemeanour to Moyes or Mourinho befall one of its playing or coaching staff? Perhaps mandatory education courses on sexism (and other forms of discrimination) for all players and staff must be part of every club’s internal agenda in this country, and not simply down to the brilliant but underappreciated efforts from Kick It Out. A good starting point would be to hammer the point home from the very beginning of a footballer’s or coach’s journey in the game.
Should Sunderland stick with David Moyes, it could take one or two seasons to restore the club and start to rebuild his career after a forgettable three years. Long term, they may even become a stable Premier League proposition. If clubs too start to rebuild an understanding of the acceptance of diversity, we may have a football culture to be proud of, sooner rather than later.
Authored by Reece Lawrence