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?

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”

Report: Chelsea planning Hazard, Courtois pay raises

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Eden Hazard has returned to his old self under Antonio Conte this season, and now Chelsea is hoping to lock down their star attacker.

[ MORE: Lukaku says decision has been made on Everton future ]

According to the Mirror, the Premier League leaders are planning on offering up a pay raise to Hazard, who has 11 league goals this season for the Blues.

Hazard signed a nearly $250,000 per week deal two seasons ago, but the Belgium international will likely rake in significantly more under the reported deal as Chelsea hopes to keep the 26-year-old away from Spanish giants Real Madrid and others.

The Mirror is also reporting that goalkeeper and Hazard’s Belgian teammate Thibaut Courtois is likely to be handed a raise is salary as well.

The shot-stopper is set be handed a deal roughly in the range of what Hazard is currently making after allowing just 21 goals in 28 PL matches this season.