Moyes sacking: ‘My friend David is an honourable man who has been treated awfully’

Martin Baker is close to the sacked United manager and knows how much he will be hurting after being let down by the club

I have just sent a card to Mrs David Moyes. David’s sacking as manager of Manchester United feels like a bereavement, and the note, for all its chattiness, carries the tone of a concerned family friend. Sorry for your loss.

Or rather, in my case, disgusted by the way a thoroughly decent man has been treated. I’ve known Moyes for over 16 years. He’s been an occasional confidante and a long-term friend, whose help through a messy period in my own life was quietly sustaining, helpful, kind.

Seeing him let down by players – several of whom are guilty, at the least, of desertion of duty – has been sickening. I doubt that Moyes will have watched Ryan Giggs’ jocose, gurning performance at yesterday’s press conference; he tends to shun media after a severe setback.

For me, watching Giggs being self-satisfied and with a limited sense of brotherhood, called to mind Macbeth. I see Moyes as the decent, trusting Duncan, hurt in what was supposed to be a place of safety. An honourable man has been dealt with dishonourably, that much is clear. And sooner or later the sweet milk of concord will certainly get poured down the very cracks of hell – or the Old Trafford boardroom, at least.

As the whole farce unfolds (Roy Keane has been touted as assistant manager at Manchester United, for heaven’s sake), Moyes will be keeping his own counsel. There’s been a short statement, and that’s it. Now it’s time for a long, slow, painful recovery.

In 2009 I ghosted Moyes’ autobiography. Although he had green-lit the project in 2008, he decided against publication – even though Random House were desperate for the book, and had made 38,000 pre-sales (very unusual for a book that hadn’t even been delivered). I am still not sure why we didn’t go ahead. It’s our book, but his story – and I never asked for a reason, just as I never asked whether he coveted the United job.

I suspect that the decision not to proceed was partly disappointment at Everton’s loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup final that year, and partly natural modesty. He may be angry at the publication of this extract of the text – which may now never see the light of day. But so be it. Someone needs to speak up for a decent man who’s been indecently treated. He may have been paid shed-loads of money, but – to borrow from The Merchant of Venice this time – he’s a human being like the rest of us: if you prick him, he bleeds.

To the right, in his voice, is an extract from the book. It explains how he deals with defeat and difficulty. It may explain where he is emotionally just now. Moyes is in the Managers’ Graveyard. But be sure of one thing: he’ll be back.

Martin Baker’s new novel, ‘Version Thirteen’, published by Unbound, is available now in bookshops, and online at: unbound.co.uk/books/version-thirteen

The Managers’ Graveyard by David Moyes

“The graveyard I’m talking about isn’t a place. It’s a state of mind. It’s not a very pleasant one, either.

After a defeat, I don’t want company. I don’t want to be around other people. I don’t want to chit-chat and pretend everything’s all right. When we’ve lost, it’s not all right.

It does vary a wee bit. There are some defeats when you come off the pitch and you feel almost like a winner. For example, if you’ve played really well against a massive team and lost to an unlucky late goal. Again, there are times when you play really well and concede a late equaliser and it really hurts. We played Arsenal at Goodison in spring 2009. We dominated, but had the win snatched from us by a fantastic Van Persie strike just before the final whistle. In conversation with Arsène Wenger afterwards, he was generous to admit that we were unlucky not to win. But to me, it felt like a defeat.

Losing’s part of the game, I do understand that. You have to accept it and give credit to the opposition, even if you’ve not played well yourself. Then you have to pick yourself up and get on with it. You move on to the next game. That’s what happens. Every time.

But it’s much easier to talk about than it is to do. Knowing you have to recover isn’t the same as recovering. I have to show the players that there’s a way forward. The players have to see that I’m bullet-proof. I have to give them the lead and move them on. But before I can do that, I have to go through a whole process myself. I do that in what I call The Managers’ Graveyard.

The Managers’ Graveyard is a place that is difficult to describe if you’re not a manager yourself. There’s a place where elephants go to die. Football managers go to such a place. You brood there. You gnaw on your disappointment and your anger and this horrible feeling that something’s been taken away.

There are a lot of managers in that dark place, the Managers’ Graveyard, every Saturday night. Some will blame it on the referee. Some will blame their selection. Some will say that the team wasn’t good enough. But they’ll all be there for a while. Some can get out quite quickly. Others will stay for longer.

Most managers will tell you that the lows are more intense than the highs.  When you win you feel good. When you lose, it’s terrible.

When things aren’t going well, I try not to listen to the radio too much or read too many newspapers, except for news. I certainly don’t read what goes on the internet.

To this day, I can remember driving in my car as a young Celtic player and hearing myself get absolutely slaughtered on the local radio phone-in programme. I was a young boy of maybe 18 or 19, and the criticism from the fans really hurt. So I limit my exposure to it, and try to keep a level head about it.

In 2008, many years later, I met prime minister Gordon Brown after he’d come up to Liverpool for a Cabinet meeting. We talked about football. He’s a mad Raith Rovers fan, and said he had watched me when I played for Dunfermline.

I wanted to ask him how he handles criticism. Just about everything a prime minister does is subject to unbelievable criticism. I’m often asked how I react to some of the stuff regarding my own performance. The answer’s simple: I don’t read it, good or bad. If you’re not going to pay too much heed when you’re losing, you shouldn’t when you’re winning. It’s a way of keeping my life in balance.

The only way I’ve discovered is dealing with the pain of defeat full-on. However hard it is, however long the process. Losing is a great big bruise, and you have to let it hurt. You try to learn from it, and to move forward when you’ve the strength. Sometimes that takes a long time. There are no short-cuts.”

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'