David Moyes experienced the “worst day” of his career in football as Sunderland’s 10-year Premier League tenure ended with a 1-0 defeat at home to Bournemouth and the Stadium of Light echoed to chants demanding his dismissal.
Relegation to the Championship was most definitely not what the former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad manager envisaged when he succeeded Sam Allardyce last July and explains why, on the eve of the match, Moyes revealed he was considering his future. Sunderland’s seventh manager in six years is expected to step down this summer but, before finalising any decision, he will meet Ellis Short, the club’s owner and Martin Bain, the chief executive.
“I don’t think today’s the right time to talk about my future, that’s a conversation for another day I need to wait and gather my thoughts,” said an unusually subdued and quietly spoken Moyes after the final whistle.
“I’ll sit down with Ellis and Martin in the next week or so and speak about it but today I’m more concerned about the people who follow the club. My emotions are with the people in this area, they’re the ones I feel for.”
The Scot – a candidate to succeed Gordon Strachan as his country’s coach this summer – readily agreed that relegation represented a personal nadir before apologising to Sunderland fans. “It’s my worst day in football, definitely the worst day, but my thoughts are with the supporters,” he said. “I’m just sorry we weren’t able to do a better job. I don’t think this is the time to offer them a reason why but they come here in their thousands week in week out and travel the country in their thousands as well. I’m so disappointed we couldn’t give them more. I know that cash isn’t always easy to come by in this part of the country, so I appreciate every penny they put into the club by watching the team. I hoped relegation would never come.”
Although shouldering a degree of responsibility, Moyes emphasised that he viewed this season as a collective failure at a club that have flirted with the Championship for the past five seasons and are £110m in debt, up for sale and carry one of the Premier League’s top-10 wage bills. With scores of staff about to be made redundant and nine senior players out of contract next month the future could scarcely be more uncertain. “There’s no criticism of the players, of their effort or commitment, they played as well as they could,” said a manager disappointed by the degree of transfer market backing he received from Short. “But I’m experienced, I know what a Premier League squad looks like and I’ve felt right from the start we’ve been a little short of the quality we need.
“The problem’s been a collective thing from top to bottom here, I don’t think it’s down to any one person. It’s been a long hard season of not winning games and that drags everyone down. You don’t feel good about it but we’ll regroup, take a bit of time and see what to do.”
In a statement, Short apologised and admitted mistakes: “Like any supporter my initial reaction if one of sadness, disappointment, anger and frustration,” he said. “It’s hard for everyone to take. It’s an especially cruel blow for our supporters and I am truly sorry we have not been able to retain our top-flight status for them.
“I acknowledge that during my ownership mistakes have been made, particularly in the area of player recruitment and we are paying the price for that now. We need to improve both on and off the field and there is a strong determination to do so.”
Eddie Howe was sympathetic. “David’s an outstanding manager and he will come back from this,” said Bournemouth’s manager, who saw Josh King score the game’s only goal in the 88th minute. “It’s sad to see a big club like Sunderland go down but the Premier League is unforgiving, it’s such a good standard this year and small margins decide important things.”
With his side stuck to the bottom and 13 points adrift of 17th-placed Hull, Moyes’s problem is that the gap between Sunderland and much of the division has become embarrassingly wide.