On the 11th August, regarding the replacement of Martin O’Neill, I wrote this about Alan Curbishley:
‘I’m a fan of Alan, however I know some will say that his consideration would be a question of ambition. Unquestionably a safe option, ‘Curbs’ is still to bring success to a Premier League side and I have a feeling that his appointment would be met with unenthused groans by hardcore Villains.
But I look at it differently.
After overseeing 2 promotions and top flight consolidation with Charlton Athletic, Curbishley remarkably (and famously) saved newly promoted West Ham’s season from certain relegation with just 5 months to work with – and later turning them into a top ten outfit the year after.
Although it might not get me jumping from my seat, I would support the acquisition of Curbs, the former Villain, and would remember that everyone deserves their chance once they’ve earned it.
If football was so elitist and managers could not climb available ladders of opportunity, we would not currently be treated by the work of David Moyes, the beauty of Wenger football – and dare I say it, we would have no Alex Ferguson.’
Unfortunately, I was right. And what I predicted to be “unenthused groans” has spread like wildfire and prolonged to smear the pretty much unblemished reputation of Alan Curbishley.
So am I missing something?
Because the last time I checked, it was considered a decent achievement to take a team from modern day Championship obscurity to secure their status as a top flight club. It was also considered impossible to guide a team, bottom of the table at Christmas, to Premier League safety (a newly promoted team at that), let alone turn them into a top 10 side just one season later.
Curbishley has proven that he can uncover hidden gems within a low budget (God, wouldn’t that be nice right now). Charlton bought and sold Darren Bent (a player who bagged almost a goal in every two games for him) for a £14m profit. Curbs was also responsible for the emergence of England internationals such as Paul Konchesky, Lee Bowyer and Scott Parker, through the Charlton Academy (miniscule compared to that of Villa’s).
Maybe this will prove to be an unpopular post, but I can’t get my head around the over-criticism that Alan is receiving. Yes, he isn’t a big name, and Aston Villa are a big club. But I wonder where the Everton nay-sayers are right now who weren’t so convinced at the prospect of a relatively unproven Preston North End manager taking charge of their giant club. I wonder where the ‘Arsene Who?’ campaign has disintegrated to as the French man delivered unrivalled success at a “bigger” club.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see Moyes get the job – even Sven. But I will not ignorantly fob off the idea of Alan Curbishley getting a chance at a club the size he deserves for some unfounded reason. Maybe it is a backwards step from O’Neill; maybe there are bigger names out there – but the reality is that we have to find the best candidate, the best interested candidate, available for the job now. And Alan should not be dismissed just because he hasn’t had the chance at a top club yet, just because he hasn’t been in the position to deliver cup success yet. He has had just two jobs to date, and he has been unquestionably successful in both.
Proven in Premier League combat, Curbishley can keep poor teams, poor clubs afloat in the top flight – on top of the assurance of top half experience which he possesses. His appointment to Villa Park would not be a “risk”. At worst, it would be another unsuccessful attempt at Champions League Qualification, and maybe a narrow displacement outside the top 6 (a feat which was always going to be a challenge this year anyway).
So should Curbs get the nod by Mr Lerner, I will welcome him and look forward to what he can bring to the table with a better team and improved resources.
The Charlton Athletic website dedicates a section to their former boss, headered:
‘Alan Curbishley had been the Charlton manager since 1991. During his time in charge the club has evolved from a league side on the brink of financial ruin, into an established Premiership side with European ambitions.’
I wonder what evolution he can bring to Aston Villa, already a Premiership side, already a club with more than just European ambitions.