The Strange Case of Alan Curbishley

Alan Curbishley’s fifteen year reign as boss of Charlton Athletic looked to have established him as one of the up and coming English managers. After taking over the club in 1991 from departing manager Lennie Lawrence, Curbishley transformed the club he once played for from a lowly second tier team to an established Premiership club who at one stage was a few points away from Champions League football. His man management of the club he loved and his attachment to the fans made him a firm favourite with The Addicks support and on leaving for pastures new, he received a standing ovation from the fans despite just witnessing their club being thrashed 4-0 by a rampant Manchester United. Curbishley, who managed Charlton for a record-breaking 729 matches, left the club on a high, unsure where his next job would be but knew that it wouldn’t be long before someone came for his services.

After a brief 5 month stint as a television pundit, West Ham came calling in December 2006 shortly after dismissing Alan Pardew for a dismal start to the season and Curbishley accepted. Having played for the Hammers, his return was welcomed by the fans who hoped that Curbishley could turn around the club much as he had done previously with Charlton. Looking odds on for relegation, Curbishley managed to string a run of 7 wins out of nine at the tail end of the season including impressive results against Everton, Bolton, Arsenal and Manchester United to keep the club in the league.

In the following seasons, Curbishley had some success in difficult surrounds finishing 10th in the 2007-2008 season despite more long-term injuries to first team players than any manager could handle and an ongoing saga around the controversial signings of Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano. During the 2007-2008 season, Curbishley’s name was also mentioned in connection with the vacant England manager’s job after Steve ” The Wally with the Brolley” McLaren was sacked but eventually lost out to Italian Fabio Capello. As the next season kicked off Curbishley managed under a cloud of rumours and speculation as the club’s Icelandic owners looked to make back some of their investment by selling key players. Following months of internal struggles, Curbishley called time on his tenure as manager in September 2008 and launched a legal case against the club for constructive dismissal which he eventually won.

Speaking about West Ham and the court case, Curbishley reflected on his time in charge and the reasons for leaving:

 “I very much enjoyed my time at West Ham and never wanted to leave, but on joining the club I insisted that my contract contained a clause confirming that I would have final say on the selection of players to be transferred to and from the club”

After a spell on the sidelines and having returned to work as a TV pundit, it wasn’t long before his name was linked to managerial vacancies across the UK and Europe. But amazingly Curbishley has yet to come back to management in over 4 years, raising the question of why not. A strong coach, who has experienced success at two different clubs, his talent for management is not in question but what has potentially restricted clubs from approaching Curbishley about roles, is his anticipated passion to get back in the game. Understandably he wanted to take some time after leaving West Ham to regain his thoughts and turned down several offers but perhaps he turned down one too many and has now placed doubt in the minds of club owners across the country. Their reluctance to hire him now rings alarm bells for a talented manager who is ready to get back into the game but faces the real prospect of not being able to do so any time soon.

Recently, he has expressed an interest in a vacancy at Ipswich Town (joined by former Tractors manager George Burley in doing so) but other candidates like Alan Shearer and Mick McCarthy were also interested. He felt that he had a winning hand with his ambition to bring in former midfielder and Ipswich Town legend Matt Holland as his No.2, who played for Curbishley as his captain at Charlton, but eventually lost out to McCarthy. It was yet another disappointment for a talented manager who just can’t seem to find his way back in. In the end, Curbishley deserves another shot at management, whether it be in England or abroad because no-one wants to see him end up on the managerial scrap heap yet again.


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