Darren Moore: View from The Hawthorns
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
The first thing many fans do when a new arrival comes into a club is to study who the new name used to play for or manage, then seek out informed opinion on them from fans of those clubs. With Darren Moore fresh off his first managerial job at West Bromwich Albion, we thought it wise to see what we were getting from the big man in terms of his role in the dugout and in charge of the playing staff. To that end, ITEN spoke this week with three Baggies fans – Alex Newton, Nick Weaver and Tommy Farr – to gauge what life will be like under Moore.
You can find today's contributors on Twitter - Alex is @AlexRobNewton, Nick can be found at @PCIANDME whilst Tommy is @Gingerzola. Many thanks to them for speaking with us, we wish them good luck for the season in the Championship!
ITEN ASKS: How would you describe Darren Moore as a manager, in terms of his personality and approach?
Alex Newton: He's a superb man-manager, and he understands the core values of your club. He takes time to learn the culture and understands what fans expect from their team. He's one of the nicest guys in football, and nobody has a bad word to say about him. Sometimes this can be a problem because you feel he can be too nice! On the whole, though it's a pleasure to have him as the manager of your club.
Tommy Farr: When Moore stepped into the job in a caretaker role at the end of our Premier League stay, he gave those fans left desperately clinging to it a little reason for hope and to those of us who had long before resigned ourselves to the inevitable relegation a little light at the end of a very dark Pulis and Pardew tunnel. He stuck to the basics playing with 4 at the back and with protection in front of them and made us much harder to beat than we had been previously, picking up some very creditable results before the inevitable happened.
Once he got the job on a permanent basis upon relegation, he tried to implement a change of mentality and to lift the dark cloud that had hung over the club and the fans for so much of the negative Pulis reign and the farcical Pardew spell by playing on the front foot and trying to entertain the fans. On the eve of the season he appointed now Luton manager Graeme Jones as his assistant and, in my opinion, allowed him too much of a free reign at implementing his own style on the team as opposed to it being all Darren's preference. This is of course only my own interpretation of events but I do wonder if he would do things differently if he could have his time here again.
Darren is one of, if not the, nicest blokes in football and one of the good guys in general and it is hard not to pull for anyone like that, which I'm sure your fans will. He is a very thoughtful man and leads by example.
Nick Weaver: Very honest guy according to all that know him. He's a calm head undoubtedly. The more mature characters will appreciate this I'm sure. At West Bromwich Albion he had the advantage that he was a well-respected staff member before getting the job.
ITEN ASKS: What style of football did Darren implement in his time at West Brom? Was it effective?
AN: He always looked to play football the right way. Albion's approach for the majority of Moore's tenure was always to score one more than the opposition. Naturally, this led to some thrilling victories, but it also lead to some very poor results and a massive lack of clean sheets. It's also worth noting that now Luton boss Graeme Jones had significant input on the tactics during his time at WBA. At times it felt like we had joint head coaches rather than just Darren. He likes to play attacking football, push the fullbacks on but be pragmatic with the ball rather than trying to pass it around for the sake of it. Don't expect to dominate possession but expect to get your money's worth in entertainment.
NW: Much more entertaining stuff which, following Pulis shouldn't have been difficult but, Pardew didn't really succeed with the style transformation as quickly as supporters wanted.
TF: After relegation and the appointment of Jones, it was hard to distinguish the way we were insisting on playing from a Roberto Martinez side. The ball would be passed out to the defence from every restart by the keeper, trying to beat the initial press of the opposition, it just turned out that our defenders were not very good at either that style of play, or it could be argued, defending in general considering the amount of goals we shipped.
At times, against the lesser lights of a very weak division, we simply overpowered sides and made up for any defensive frailty by being ruthless at the other end thanks to Gayle, Barnes and Rodriguez, but we were completely unravelled by better sides far too often to maintain any genuine hope that promotion was a realistic prospect. Systems and personnel were shuffled, giving the impression that the management didn't know what their best team was or how to set it up and have it play and the same mistakes were being repeated at an alarming rate.
The Hawthorns was a welcoming place for opposition sides to come as early goals were continually shipped and the crowd agitated by an insistence on "over-playing" at the back and at the time of his departure, we had won just one of eight at home, with a fortunate draw against rock bottom Ipswich being the final straw, surprisingly to many, but ultimately, and unfortunately, the correct decision.
ITEN ASKS: What led to his downfall at The Hawthorns?
TF: See above. One caveat to all that I've said, and a very important one to consider is that the club off the field is not the stable and heralded model it was a few years ago. Ownership has changed and we are led in the Boardroom by an accountant who is doing the bidding of an absent owner. On relegation, a sensible club would have taken stock and sold a few of the higher earners and more valuable assets in order to provide funds to refresh a squad which had been crying out for an overhaul for a number of years already. Instead, we turned down bids for Dawson and Rodriguez with the thought being that retaining a PL quality squad (ignoring the fact that they had been an embarrassment for large spells of the previous season) would give a rookie manager the best chance at an immediate return - an approach which Moore was fully on board with.
Fast forward 12 months and we see that that approach was very poorly thought out, ignoring many warning signs, resulting in an unbalanced squad which was over-reliant on the contribution of loanees who have now departed, along with the aforementioned higher earners for a fraction of what was on offer last summer. In short, Moore's performance should come with an asterisk to state that the Board is every bit as responsible for last season's failure as any member of staff or squad member.
NW: Good question! Circumstances appear desperate at WBA. New owners spend £200m to buy it and it went down. Decision making appears to be panic driven by economics as far as I can see. We're a club without a plan. Moore was pushed out without a plan, the same way he almost fell into the job.
AN: Ultimately the tactical side of things wasn't good enough. We were letting too many goals in, and Darren never managed to find his best starting eleven. He had a few questionable decisions like play Dwight Gayle out on the wing, and that didn't sit well with the fans. Throw in a poor run of home form, and he was on a hiding to nothing. Personally, I think the sacking was a little harsh at the time, but there's no room for sentiment in football.
ITEN ASKS: Do you think dropping down a league to manage Doncaster will be good for Darren?
NW: He won't think it's a step down or that he's "too big" for it. That's not him at all. I'm afraid I don't know enough about Doncaster's present situation to comment on whether it'll work out for you. Let's hope so!
TF: I do. There isn't an Albion fan around who didn't wish Darren every success and it was with a set of very heavy hearts that we said goodbye to someone who grew up within a mile or so of The Hawthorns and who became a cult hero following his playing days with us.
That said, I wasn't personally sold on him being the right appointment at the time, despite the rallying job he did in the caretaker role. The club was in a big mess off the field, the squad in need of a big overhaul, the belt being tightened and I just didn't feel that we were the right club for a rookie at that time. I understand why the club gave it to him (cough, cough, cheap) and I understand why he jumped at the opportunity too, but I feel that a club with lower expectations than immediate PL promotion and not so many distractions will be a good thing for him. I understand that I speak not being that knowledgeable of the off field situation at DRFC right now, hopefully you are a little more settled than we were!
The main thing I hope for Moore at Doncaster is that he relaxes and makes sure that whatever kind of job he does and no matter the level of success or failure, that he does thing his own way and lives and dies by his own decisions, and not the fanciful vision of other staff members. Good luck this season!
AN: 100%. Darren was thrown in the deep end at The Hawthorns. To ask a rookie manager to take any club out of the Championship via promotion is a huge ask. While Doncaster comes with the expectations of playoff hopes, there won't be quite as much pressure on Moore at all. Every single Albion fan will want him to succeed, and hopefully, we get to meet in one of the cups. I'm sure Darren can look to build something good at Doncaster, he'll need time to get his ideas across but give him that and it could be a genius appointment.