Alan Curbishley spent a 15 seasons as manager at Charlton Athletic, but in an era where increased media attention means reputations rest on what you’ve done lately, the 56-year-old is remembered for the two seasons he spent running West Ham United, a spell that ended with his resignation in 2008. Since then, Curbishley’s won a constructive dismissal claim against the Hammers, has been linked with a myriad jobs around England, did the television thing, and has become a symbol of old England managerial practices, where one man’s handed the keys to a club’s kingdom.
How that reputation came about isn’t exactly clear, though the West Ham departure surely played into it. Still, the trope takes on an ironic tone after today’s announcement at Fulham. The Cottagers, having recently swapped Martin Jol out for René Meulensteen as manager, have brought in Curbishley as their first team technical director, announcing the move today on their web site:
With a wealth of football experience behind him, Alan will work with Head Coach René Meulensteen as the Club embarks on the second half of the season, and the important task of securing our Barclays Premier League status for a 14th consecutive campaign.
What exactly that means as far as the relationship between Curbishley and the manager is unclear. It’s one thing to have a technical director, it’s another to give him any power, though given Curbishley’s history and reported preferences, it’s safe to assume the former Addicks’ boss wouldn’t take a ceremonial role. Expect Curbishley to play a major part in shaping the first team squad.
René Muelensteen, from Fulham’s website:
“Following Martin [Jol’s] departure I discussed with both Alistair Mackintosh and the Chairman the challenges we face, and I was delighted that they supported the idea of additional support within the coaching team.
“Alan has a proven track record in the industry and understands full well what it takes to succeed.”
The hiring was not received with universal applause by Fulham fans on Twitter (warning: language makes that link unsafe for work). Among some of the clean tweets collected by SBNation.com’s soccer team:
Mohammed (@GabrielMobertan) December 24, 2013
Peter Baird (@peterbairdefc) December 24, 2013
*deepest breath ever* HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA RT @FulhamFC: "FFC has confirmed it has appointed Alan Curbishley as Technical Director."—
Max (@MaxwellJayDFW) December 24, 2013
Others reacted with more reverence for Curbishley’s days at The Valley. When the former Charlton midfielder left the club after the 2005-06 season, the Addicks had enjoyed six straight seasons in the top flight. In that span, they never finished lower than 14th and climbed as high as seventh in 2003-04. Whereas Curbishley began his managerial career as a player-coach for a third division team, he ended it with a prolonged run in the Premier League.
Since, Charlton has dropped all the way to the third tier before earning promotion two years ago. In the mean time, Curbishley’s been mostly without a job, and while his role at Fulham doesn’t get him back on the sidelines, it does see him return to the Premier League, hoping to help another London club stay in England’s first division.
At the same time, it gives Premier League fans to revisit Curbishley’s accomplishments. While leaving West Ham over transfer policy heeled make him into a symbol for a managerial model that’s slowly fading away, any focus on his days at West Ham would be unfair to Curbishley. The bulk of the man’s professional career was in southeast London, and while recent events will always linger closest in our minds, Fulham’s hiring gives us a chance to revisit what now looks like a remarkable run at The Valley.
After all, how many manager spend 15 years at one club? Let alone seeing them from third to first division in the process?