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Curbishley to show his class again

Alan Curbishley, despite what was described as an impressive interview, never got the chance to prove himself in the top job with England.

So, you suspect, it was a nagging urge to fully explore his footballing credentials as much as his love for his former club which saw him return as manager to West Ham.

It is one thing patrolling the dugout for 15 years at Charlton, a small club with few resources and no great expectation.

It is quite another taking charge of a club steeped in nostalgia, with a cup-winning tradition, a penchant for 'beautiful' football, demanding fans and where the corridors are frequented by the ghosts of Bobby Moore and Ron Greenwood.

If the new manager is looking for the real Alan Curbishley then he will find him somewhere over the next six months in the challenge to restore the fortunes of a West Ham in freefall.

For Curbishley, a childhood fan when the club won the FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners' Cup the following year, it is a dream appointment.

But the Hammers are also fortunate to have someone as talented and as readily available to step in as the man steeped in the Greenwood-John Lyall school of football.

As such Curbishley is a man whose values of honesty, dignity and loyalty sit somewhat uncomfortably next to the Icelandic takeover of West Ham and new chairman Eggert Magnusson's ruthless sacking of Alan Pardew just eight days after insisting he had "faith in him".

But, make no mistake, his qualities and convictions go to the core of West Ham's tradition.

You will not find a Curbishley team attempting to kick their way out of trouble. They play tidy, busy football, based on passing and movement.

Curbishley's big strengths have been his meticulous organisation, his man-management, a capacity to buy wisely, plus an ability to get the extra ounce of quality from the 'Average Joes' who fitted into his tight budget at Charlton.

The difference now is that, given Scandinavian investment, for the first time he will have real money to spend. With that comes real pressure.

That is the test for Curbishley. As a good footballing housekeeper we know he can live off crumbs, but can he go the extra mile? Can he deal with big-name characters? Can he deal with changing rooms where player power so often impinges on the plans of the manager?

My guess is that he can and that, once he has steadied West Ham and steered them clear of relegation, we will see the best of one of English football's most talented and likeable managers.

True, football is littered with examples of managers who prove the old adage that you should never go back.

Howard Kendall at Everton. Glenn Hoddle at Tottenham. Graeme Souness at Liverpool.

Curbishley deserves to be the exception.


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