David Moyes heading towards West Ham exit as Hammers get glimpse of an alternative future

David Moyes heading towards West Ham exit as Hammers get glimpse of an alternative future

The official party line — from David Moyes and from West Ham’s hierarchy — has not changed: a decision over the manager’s future will not be taken until the campaign is done and the summer recess in swing.

The sense, though, is that the scales are tilting decisively in one direction, towards a natural conclusion and a parting of the ways.

Three days after bowing out of Europe in defiant style, West Ham folded meekly at Crystal Palace to leave their hopes for another season of Thursday night fun in the mire.

So abject was their display that neither Moyes, nor his players, attempted to use the tight turnaround as an excuse, despite it being freely offered up.

“The players got praised for their performance on Thursday night, but today was so bad I cannot put it into words,” Moyes said. “In truth, I am embarrassed to sit here and be speaking on behalf of the team and the way they have performed.”

Crystal Palace were outstanding and fully deserving of their win, racing into a 4-0 lead inside 31 minutes and eventually on to a 5-2 triumph, making it back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time all season. But while the Eagles are finishing the season strongly, lifted by Oliver Glasner’s arrival to a level of late-season urgency and enthusiasm that belies their comfortable position, West Ham are falling apart.

There has been no clean sheet in 15 league matches and only three wins since the turn of the year. With just four games to come — against Liverpool, Chelsea, Luton and Manchester City — and Moyes’s squad so stretched, it is hard to envisage a late-season revival.

And so, unless either Moyes or the club breaks rank, the likelihood is that the next month will represent something of a slow march towards D-Day.

Though there was a half-hearted chant of ‘sacked in the morning’ at 4-0 down, the response to West Ham’s dismal show here did not feel quite as visceral as those that greeted the 5-0 defeat at Fulham before Christmas, or the 6-0 mauling by Arsenal on home turf.

Perhaps that was an acknowledgement of the effort put in to run Bayer Leverkusen close, but there may well be a feeling that protest is futile when the end already seems nigh.

For all West Ham would clearly love to be in another European semi-final next month and sixth in the division rather than eighth this morning, it may make the decision over Moyes’s future more straightforward, for the board and the man himself, should the season trundle towards a flat end.

Twelve months ago, it was not clear whether West Ham had had an historically brilliant season or an utterly forgettable one until virtually its last kick, when Jarrod Bowen ran through to score in Prague.

Within 12 hours, with emotion still hot, co-chairman David Sullivan was on radio confirming that, despite having spent most of the season fighting relegation, Moyes would stay on into the final year of his contract, so long as he wanted to.

Much of the debate since has essentially boiled down to the question of whether the stability and success of the Moyes era is worth sacrificing in pursuit of something more. It is not all that long ago that Palace fans were having similar discussions over Roy Hodgson.

Glasner has made an early impact at Palace (Action Images via Reuters)
Glasner has made an early impact at Palace (Action Images via Reuters)

While still in its infancy, the appointment of Glasner has offered hope that the cake might be both had and eaten. The Eagles have been steered towards the kind of mid-table serenity that became tedious under Hodgson, but are playing more progressive football, getting the most from talents such as Michael Olise and Eberchi Eze, who each scored and laid on goals for Jean-Philippe Mateta here, and have new optimism about what might be achievable next term.

West Ham fans, likewise, have every right to hope a new manager inheriting a top-10 squad on the back of three successive deep runs in Europe might deliver similar uplift from a higher base and without the drop-off some fear.

And, of course, they may be proven wrong. Moyes has, after all, been ditched for a sexier successor and then recalled before. Increasingly, though, it feels as if those keen for a glimpse of an alternative future will get their wish.