The former Manchester United and Everton manager did make a difference at La Real at first. He quickly re-organised a team that had been leaking goals and relegation concerns were soon eased before a comfortable mid-table finish last May.
The summer then seemed to go pretty well — with no key players leaving and quality signings including former midfielder Asier Illarramendi returning from Real Madrid, and prolific Brazilian striker Jonathas from Elche.
But 2015/16 season has not gone well at all. The team did not score until game four of the season. Anoeta fans have still not yet cheered a home win, and twice watched their team blow comfortable leads and lose to injury-time goals. The only two victories to date, after 11 games, have been at the league’s bottom two sides Granada and Levante.
There’s been little cheer from Moyes off the pitch either. The 52-year-old Glaswegian has never really looked comfortable in La Liga. He still speaks only in English to the media, uses an interpreter at training, and regularly moans about Spanish referees being soft.
There’s a sharp contrast with recently deceased ex-Athletic Bilbao coach Howard Kendall, and former Real Sociedad striker John Aldridge. They both dived into the local culture during short spells in the Basque country two decades ago, and are still remembered fondly today.
Moyes’ biggest cultural issue seems a disconnect between how he wants to do his job, and what the club expects from their first team coach. Moyes complained in August about how signings were made “by the club”. Sporting director and former club captain Loren hit back pointedly on Basque TV last month — suggesting Moyes had quality players to work with but was not getting them to play well. It is hard to argue with that assessment. Stylish midfielders Sergio Canales, Esteban Granero and Ruben Pardo have been dropped from the XI.
Impish Mexican attacker Carlos Vela has just two goals in 11 games.
The one La Real player thriving this season is centre-forward Imanol Agirretxe, a traditional British [or Basque] style number nine.
On Friday the team gave their worst performance yet, losing 2-0 at Las Palmas, who had previously won just once all season. Moyes was asked afterwards if he was concerned about the sack.
“Every manager is worried about their position when you don’t win games,” he responded.
“But I’m here for the season, I’m here to do the job. With the players we have we should be doing better. With the manager we have we should be doing better.”
That is again true — 38 games under Moyes have brought 11 wins, 13 draws and 13 defeats, not enough for a team which made the Champions League just three seasons back, and a manager with experience at Manchester United.
In terms of both results and playing style, the team are way behind peers such as Celta Vigo, Villarreal or neighbours Athletic.
Aperribay, who personally chose Moyes for the job, has so far shown patience. Regular speculation of a return to the Premier League is always dismissed by Moyes himself.
But the team now have nine points from 11 games this season, exactly like this stage last year, when previous coach Jagoba Arrasate was fired.
‘Moyes future is hanging by a string’ said the headline in Diario Vasco on Sunday, over a piece saying a board meeting set for Saturday was postponed to let tempers cool. Moyes was not in San Sebastian as he was back in England for his daughter’s birthday.
A permanent return to the UK looks all but guaranteed now.