David Moyes is learning plenty about football in Spain. I salute him. To live in the land of another man is hard work. You’ll never be ‘one of them.’ No matter what you do, you’ll always be an outsider or – as they call you in Spain – a guiri. The more polite translation of which means: a foreigner who talks rubbish. Only when you accept that, can you move on and enjoy life in the country.
English football fans, whose command of English on Twitter leaves something to be desired, have been poking fun at Moyes as he attempts to cope with a new language. That reminds me of all those panellists on football shows who criticise foreign managers at work in England for not being able to speak English. I’d like to hear their own fluency in Spanish, French or Italian.
David Moyes has been bold. After being treated so badly by the hierarchy at Manchester United (how’s that ‘genius’ doing as manager?); Moyes took his first break from the game before making the move to manage Real Sociedad in Basque country.
He says: “I’m really enjoying it. It’s been something I always wanted to do. I think its important British managers should go abroad. We don’t do enough of it.
“This job came up and was a good fit for me. It was the right time. I hadn’t had a break or time off from football since I was 16. After Manchester Utd I had the chance to take six months off. I had a look around and got as much information about Real Sociedad as possible. Mikel Arteta gave me a big insight, he’d played here.
“They hadn’t been performing as well as they should have be doing. For me the players here have been terrific in their attitude.
“Culturally out here the players don’t expect as much as the boys back back home do.”
So what differences has he noticed in the gym and on the training ground?
Moyes says: “They don’t have the riches we give our young players. There are more physical challenges and it’s tougher all round in the Premier League. The boys here do less strength and conditioning work. It’s not part of what they do.
“I see a similar level of technical ability. Having said that I saw the game between Atletico (sic) Bilbao and Barcelona and I have to say Barça were incredible. They were a joy to watch.
“The academies are very good. Our one is excellent. They’ve had 13 or 14 players come through to the senior squad from the academy. We have a ‘B’ team here and the standard of ‘B’ teams are better than the average reserve teams at home.
“They come in and are slightly older, they might be 22. At home at that age we say they have to be playing. The boys here play in what is the 3rd division in Spain. They play on pitches that would never be allowed in the UK. The boys never thought anything of it.
“I wanted to be more knowledgeable about why Spain were winning World Cups and European Championships. The players in England are equally as good as those in Spain. But Spain has the best two or three teams in Europe, along with Bayern Munich. The bottom half of La Liga is not as good as it is in England.”
So he gets his Atlético (Madrid) mixed up with Athletic (Bilbao). He’s not alone in that regard. It’s no big deal.
There have been other drawbacks. Cultural differences that Moyes has found it more difficult to accept. Like the relationship between managers in La Liga. If you watch those television programmes about living abroad you’ll often be told how easy it is to “integrate” with the locals. I always laugh at that one. Spain is a country in which people from different parts of the mainland refuse to integrate with each other, so what hope for a guiri?
Madrileños loathe Catalans and the feeling is mutual. The Basques can’t stand either and all of the aforementioned look down their noses at Andalucians. So David Moyes must not take it personally should opposing managers refuse his hospitality.
He says: “The communication with fellow managers is very limited here. After the game in the UK managers spend twenty minutes together, not always talking about football. But that doesn’t happen here.
“I’ve tried. I’ve asked a few managers to come back to my office for a glass of wine, but at the moment I’ve had no joy. There’s nobody coming into my room to join me for a drink.”
Welcome to Spain!