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

Leave a comment

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?

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

Getty Images
Leave a comment

On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

Getty Images
1 Comment

The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez out of Colombia starting XI

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Taking a page out of Egypt’s book, Colombia will be without its talismanic playmaker for its first match, Tuesday morning against Japan.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Juan Fernando Quintero replaced James Rodriguez in Colombia’s starting Xi to take on Japan in Saransk as Colombia coach Jose Pekerman clearly hopes a few extra days of recovery for the injured Rodriguez will help him return to 100 percent fitness. Rodriguez is battling a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez scored six goals and had two assists in five games at the last World Cup in Brazil, helping guide Los Cafeteros to their first World Cup quarterfinals appearance.