David Moyes: The Player

In this first installment of our series on David Moyes, we’d like to focus on David Moyes as a player and how it has shaped him into the manager he is today.

David Moyes started his career at ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar.  He played there for half a season before moving onto Drumchapel Amateurs where he played until 1980, joining Celtic.  Schooled as a centreback, he gradually moved up the ranks and was integrated into the first team.  It was a dream move for the Scot and his progression led him to captain the U18 Scotland side under former UEFA Technical Director Andy Roxburgh in 1980.  Roxburgh was a huge admirer of Moyes and spotted his managerial qualities despite his age.

David was an obsessive, like Alex, at learning about the business of coaching. He had the personality, the leadership qualities and the same curiosity,” Roxburgh said. “You see a lot of similar traits in them both: fantastic work ethic, decisive, streetwise.

Despite David’s early progression, first team opportunities became less frequent.  He had an opportunity to join Arsenal on loan but wanted assurances of playing week in, week out.  Moyes saw leaving Celtic as a step down in his career so wherever he went, he wanted regular football.  He decided to join Cambridge United.  Moyes sums up his time at Celtic here.

After stints at Bristol City, Shrewsbury Town, Dunfermline Athletic, and Hamilton Academial, David Moyes settled at Preston North End where he played from 1993-1999 with 143 appearances and scoring 15 goals.

Here are Moyes’ stats throughout his playing career:

Years Team Apps (Gls)
1980–1983 Celtic 24 (0)
1983–1985 Cambridge United 79 (1)
1985–1987 Bristol City 83 (6)
1987–1990 Shrewsbury Town 96 (11)
1990–1993 Dunfermline Athletic 105 (13)
1993 Hamilton Academical 5 (0)
1993–1999 Preston North End 143 (15)
Total 535 (46)


  • Celtic – Scottish Premier League (1981-82)
  • Bristol City – Associate Members’ Cup (1986)
  • Preston North End – Football League Third Division (1995-96)

Moyes always seemed destined to become a manager. At the age of 22, he took his first coaching badge while playing for Cambridge United.   Even when he was supposed to be on vacation spending time with his wife on the beach, she would accompany his trips to youth tournaments or foreign clubs.   At Largs, the Scottish national centre, where Sir Alex Ferguson, Jim McLean, Craig Brown and more began training the next set of coaches, Moyes would take a train from Glasgow and volunteer to be involved in the coaching demonstrations.  His mantra of hard work, persistence and dedication were picked up throughout his playing career.

As a 15-year old, Moyes impressed Oli Jonsson when he played against his Icelandic youth team in Glasgow.

“He was a leader on the pitch. I saw that in him then. He was a boy who was always at the front…..He was a hard worker. Early to bed, early up in the morning. He was a motivational figure.  Even though he was younger than the others it was no problem for him getting into the team. He was the best.”

Jonsson also regarded Moyes as a ‘fierce competitor, tough in the tackle’ but also fair. With these characteristics, Moyes garnered respect and popularity in the dressing room.

The similarities to Sir Alex are striking. Early up in the morning, fierce competitor, motivational figure, hard-working, Scottish. The list goes on and on.  You can see why Sir Alex saw so much of himself in Moyes and why he was his top choice.  Where they differ is while Ferguson plied his trade as a striker, Moyes was a centre-half and perhaps this small detail reveals some of the differences in their tactical setups.

Thanks for reading. Check our website for the next installment: “David Moyes: The Tactician”

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