THE text message was damning.
As news filtered through last July that David Moyes was being handed a four-year deal at Sunderland, one senior star wrote in the first-team’s WhatsApp group: “Four months more like.”
Whether that was a slight on Moyes as a manager or on owner Ellis Short’s trigger-happy tendencies, we do not know.
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After all, no Sunderland boss had seen out a season since Steve Bruce in 2010-11.
But it proved some of the players had as little faith in things working out for Moyes as the Scot did himself.
And his departure today confirmed what the squad predicted back in the summer – that this was never going to be the long-term appointment Sunderland hoped it would be.
Moyes described replacing Alex Ferguson at Manchester United as “the impossible job”.
And he will no doubt think the same about this one because from day one it has been a car crash.
In fact, on day one it was almost a plane crash, as Moyes and his men were forced to make an emergency landing after an engine failure on their flight to a pre-season tour of France.
It was at Sunderland’s base in the picturesque spa town of Evian that the size of the task in hand started to dawn on him.
His squad were incapable of completing even the most basic of training drills.
And in private, Moyes was wondering how his predecessor Sam Allardyce had managed the keep the same flops up in the previous season.
His only hope was to throw money at the problem in last summer’s transfer window.
In his first interview in the job, Moyes told club website he had been given “guarantees and reassurances” over spending from supremo Short.
And he had no reason to doubt him, especially given that the American boasted how he had finally landed the man who had been his “No1 managerial target for the last five appointments”.
But what Short failed to tell his manager was that he was trying to sell his debt-ridden club.
And Moyes soon realised funds were not so freely available when, to his annoyance, his attempts to sign Watford’s Troy Deeney and Leicester’s Leonardo Ulloa were blocked.
In a frantic end to the window, ten players eventually came in at a combined cost of £27.1million, with free transfers and loan transfers the order of the day.
But this squad needed well over £50m spent on it and it looked frighteningly short in terms of both quality and quantity come the start of the season.
Still, you have to question the way Moyes used his limited funds.
To shell out £13.6m on novice Didier Ndong was a huge gamble, and the £8m spent on Chelsea flop Papy Djilobodji – even if most of that payment was deferred – was a waste.
While the loan acquisitions of Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj and Manchester City’s Jason Denayer have also not worked out.
It was the same story in January, by which point Sunderland were already swimming against the tide.
A fortnight before the window re-opened, Moyes was told he would have no money to spend.
And he then told reporters he would have reconsidered accepting the job had he known the financial constraints he would be working under.
Moyes subsequently rolled the dice by selling one of his better players, Patrick van Aanholt, to relegation rival Crystal Palace.
The £14m brought in looked good business, especially as the Dutchman was telling team-mates he would refuse to play until he got his move away.
Yet only free agent Joleon Lescott and £7.5m Everton cast-offs Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson came through the door.
And as Moyes himself admitted before they arrived, any signings he made in January would not be of a sufficient standard to “make a big difference” to the Black Cats’ plight.
That remark was just one of his many negative – if realistic – forecasts, which started back in August when, after losing to Middlesbrough, he declared Sunderland would be in for a season of struggle.
Moyes’ defence is that he has always just been honest, telling fans earlier this month: “I came to a part of the country where, I was led to believe, that was the way people wanted speaking to.”
But his remarks left his squad uninspired, demotivated and resigned to relegation – how could they believe when their manager did not believe in them?
One long-serving player recently commented how he could tell Moyes “didn’t care” anymore.
And the same star rounded on him again after Sunday’s final-day defeat at Chelsea, when a handful of Sunderland’s foreign legion – some of which Moyes had signed – claimed they were injured and ducked out of the game.
With players and fans having long since turned against him, Moyes had been plotting this exit for weeks.
Chief executive Martin Bain wanted his close pal to stay and rebuild the club in the Championship, having spent months working on transfer plans together.
And for once, Short was also not going to wield the axe – as much to do with avoiding a hefty pay-off as his desire to finally have some stability.
But Moyes knew that with no money to spend again this summer, a season of struggle in the Championship was inevitable and his reputation was likely to take a further hit.
So the outcome of this morning’s London meeting with Short and Bain was, in the end, a mere formality.
At least he lasted longer than four months.