Hands up who didn’t afford themselves a wry chuckle when David Moyes, on his return as West Ham manager in December 2019, declared: “That’s what I do, I win.”
It was a bold claim from a man whose stints at Sunderland, Real Sociedad and Manchester United might generously be described as chequered.
Coming as West Ham languished one point above the relegation zone – and just days after Michail Antonio had crashed his Lamborghini into a garden wall while dressed as a snowman – Moyes’s comments didn’t exactly quash the idea that the Hammers had become a laughing stock.
No one is laughing now. Or rather, no one is laughing at their expense. Inside the club it is all smiles, and the joke is on everyone else.
Yesterday’s 2-1 win over Tottenham in the Premier League has given them a two-point cushion in fourth place, raising the prospect of West Ham qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in their history.
They have won nine of their last 12 games in all competitions, have already eclipsed last season’s points tally with a third of the campaign still to go, and are the highest placed of all the London clubs.
Moyes’s reputation has also been thoroughly rehabilitated. His second stint at West Ham has been a second coming of another kind; the return of the Scot’s powers to take a proud but struggling club to heights not seen in some supporters’ lifetimes, as he did at Everton.
He’s the Moyesiah again, and not in an ironic way.
Good timing for West Ham owners
How on earth has this happened? This must be a wrinkle caused by the pandemic, right?
Well, that is probably part of the equation. This season’s schedule, with less time between fixtures especially for teams in European competition, has been a leveller.
Across the continent, even the biggest clubs have struggled to be as good as usual. Manchester City are the striking exception to that rule.
Some believe the Hammers have benefited from an empty London Stadium, where the atmosphere has been far from happy at times.
But it is also because Moyes has made West Ham genuinely good again.
Gone is the reliance on flair individuals to conjure moments of magic.
Here, instead, is the most well balanced Hammers team in a long time, with the rock-solid pairing of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek as its fulcrum.
West Ham clicking into gear in a year when others around them are struggling is good timing.
The prospect of a lucrative season in the Champions League is serendipitous for owners David Sullivan and David Gold, too.
Up until this summer, they are legally bound to repay to the taxpayer 20 per cent of the proceeds if they sell the club for between £200m and £300m.
That clause – inserted in their 99-year lease for the London Stadium – expires later this year, when the payback amount drops to 12.5 per cent.
Happy Hammers indeed.