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Fulham adds Alan Curbishley, names former Charlton, West Ham boss first team technical director

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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:

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?

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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