The London Stadium has proven itself a fine platform for athletics, less so for football – but what about gameshows?
Saturday’s meeting between West Ham and Everton, a key clash in the Premier League relegation battle, is, more relevantly, a battle for survival between David Moyes and Frank Lampard, two managers hovering precariously on the trapdoor of the technical sector, The red-handle lever is waiting to be pulled somewhere in the studio, to send one of the runners in front of the sack rushing toward the line or tee.
If it weren’t for being played behind the scenes of a 3 p.m. blackout, it would have been a drama fit for a Saturday night prime. “We’ll find out after the break…” a voice would cry, as Michail Antonio bore down on Jordan Pickford in the ensuing goal, or perhaps some other cliff-hanger with a less predictable result.
It’s the stuff of Squid Games, with danger by the bucketload, and even a small dose of Family Fortune, given Lampard’s connections. Both managers are at the tipping point of being declared the weakest link. By Sunday morning, someone has probably heard those dreaded words: “You’re fired!”
Of course, none of this is definitive, not the product of a meeting of broadcaster’s executive views, but clearly two runs of disappointing form. The tension is all too real and the prize is not life-changing advancement but a standstill that can only last as long as there are still too many concerns being kicked down the road by moderators. Everton’s board have been barred from home fixtures for fear of their own safety; David Sullivan is mourning the passing of friend and business partner David Gould.
Ultimately, at stake are the jobs of two men who are clearly invested in the football institutions they represent, deeply shaken by every defeat and wanting little more than to turn around the fortunes of their respective clubs. Both have managed it before – Lampard twice with Everton at the end of last season and Moyes, at the start of each of their West Ham spells – but are running out of time to do so again, only on goal difference. With either keeping the bottom side of the partition.
The sympathy with Lampard lies in the fact that he is only the latest in a line of coaches, many more talented of them, who have merged with historically grand clubs but are currently failing. With Moyes, it is that West Ham’s cycle of malaise was no different until he took charge and raised the bar.
So, Moyes is more confident that the solution lies somewhere within his immensely talented team, not to mention more credit in the bank. On the other side of the coin is a high level of expectation and concern that when a loophole isn’t working, it may be time for a change.
Experience has undoubtedly helped the Scot maintain an air of calm in recent weeks, despite his team picking up just one point from their last seven league games.
“As a young manager, I was overburdened,” Moyes said this week on the Diary of a CEO podcast. “In the position I’m in right now, I worry very little. It’s in my blood, I love the game, I want to be here, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, but if something happens to me It won’t be the end of the earth if I go wrong. But my pride and my determination is that I want to be successful and do a really good job for West Ham.”
Lampard certainly may not benefit from the same clarity, with his prospects beyond Everton unclear amid doubts from the former Chelsea boss, who has already been lucky with opportunities so early in his managerial career. It’s hard for both men to see them avoid defeat on Saturday.
(tag to translate) Everton