In the first pandemic-enforced lockdown in the United Kingdom, current West Ham manager David Moyes returned home to the Lancashire village in which his family lives, taking the opportunity to help out in the community, delivering fruit and vegetables for a local shop.
“They needed drivers,” he explains. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m doing nothing else, why don’t I do it?’ And I really enjoyed it because of meeting the different people.
“On a couple of occasions, they hadn’t paid, so I had to take the payment off them. One of them actually told me to keep the change. It was about 70 pence. I felt terrible. There was one woman who was going through her purse looking for the correct money, and I said: ‘Look, leave it, I’ll sort the rest out.’
“It was great and, at that time I think when we first all went into lockdown, there was a fear from everybody, and it was good to do a little bit. It wasn’t much compared to what the real heroes have done.”
Now back in his regular job, Moyes has his eyes set on Europe, but he’s doing his best to keep that to himself.
“I’d love to come on here and say: ‘West Ham supporters, get your vaccinations done and get your passport cause we’re all going on holiday next year.’ But we can’t do that quite yet and I’m not daft enough to do that.
“I dream it. I want it.”
Speaking to CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies, the current West Ham manager, is in candid mood.
As the man handpicked to replace Sir Alex Ferguson in the hot seat at Manchester United in 2013, it was always clear that Moyes could achieve big things in football.
Now, in his first full season back at West Ham – after a brief stint at the club in 2017-18 – he is again laying down a path to success.
In a tradition of formidable Scottish managers, Moyes is one of the most consistent at the top of the English game this century.
After a few jobs left him open to questions – he lasted less than a season at Manchester United and suffered his first relegation with Sunderland – his team currently sits fifth in the table, and he’s relishing the chance to answer.
“I think I’ve had a point to prove for quite a while in management,” Moyes said.
“I’ve had a really good career, nearly a thousand games in management, I would say over five hundred of them have been as a Premier League manager, if not more.
“And you know, to have longevity as a manager tends to show that there’s been a level of success, but sometimes on that road, you have some bumps and bruises and people forget.”
Neither West Ham nor the wider footballing sphere has been exempted from the challenges brought on by the global pandemic. And in September 2020, Moyes, alongside players Issa Diop and Josh Cullen, tested positive for Covid-19.
Isolating in his flat, the manager remained in contact with first team coach Stuart Pearce on the touchline, and with a delay on his television coverage, enjoyed prior notice of upcoming goals as West Ham roared to 4-0 and 3-0 wins in his absence.
“It was actually even better watching it knowing we were just about to score,” Moyes remembers.
For the players though, and the dedicated communities of football supporters throughout the world, it’s been a time of mutual appreciation, with players missing the vocal home support, and fans appreciative of some live entertainment, escapism and distraction.
“Football has meant so much to people at home who’ve had not a lot to do,” says Moyes. “It has kept them going to see live sport, live entertainment, where you don’t know the outcome.
“I think it’s been something that so many people have needed and lived for. We realize how fortunate we are in the job we have to do there, but in many ways, I also think that, you know, it’s been tough for the players as well.”
Moyes stresses the importance of the work that footballers have done, including the money given to the NHS, contributions to food banks and charities, all within a difficult period when training and returning home to isolate with families are their only two activities.
He doesn’t shy away from the fact that some players have “stepped over the line” but is quick to point out that people from “all walks of life” have done so.
“There’s an awful lot of good things which have come from football this year,” he says.
“We are incredibly privileged, but on the other side of it, there’s been an awful lot of games, stress, pressure and media attention on whether we’re at the bottom of the league or at the top or how we’re doing. It’s the same for all managers and players.”
In his first short stint in charge of the East London team, Moyes took over a side in the relegation zone, leading it to safety by the skin of its teeth.
Premier League survival would normally make an excellent claim for retaining your job permanently.
At that time, it wasn’t to be, and the owners of West Ham let him go after his six-month contract ended in May 2018.
Undeterred, Moyes retrained, immersing himself in coaching seminars and UEFA technical committees in an aim to stay updated, modern, and ready in case the right opportunity came around.
“I’ve had a lot of really good chances in life,” he recalls. “But the biggest one came when the West Ham owners – after not keeping me the first time – came back and offered me the job again.
“They must have recognized that somewhere along the line they saw something, and I admire them for being brave enough to come back and make the decision to bring me back.”
Now, after some shrewd signings – most notably Jarrod Bowen and Tomáš Souček – and some good form, Moyes has players and fans dreaming of an European adventure.
“Why should West Ham not talk about Europe?” he asks.