‘ADDICKS OWNER HAS TO BACK KARL TO HILT’
Curbs says Valley peace pact will last if Robinson can run show
CHARLTON legend Alan Curbishley has warned Addicks owner Roland Duchatelet to back Karl Robinson in the transfer market – or face the wrath of supporters. Curbishley, 60, spent 15 years in charge at The Valley, dragging the club from death’s door to a highest-ever finish of seventh in the Premier League. He departed in 2006, sparking a decade of decline that currently sees Charlton languishing in League One under the yoke of the unpopular Duchatelet. Like every Addicks fan, Curbishley watched in dismay as the Belgian hired a succession of players and managers from ‘partner clubs’ in Europe’s lower leagues. All proved unfit for purpose, with angry supporters holding several demonstrations against Duchatelet and his sidekick, Katrien Meire. Initially, the appointment of Robinson in October 2016 did little to quell unrest. Last season, both fixtures against Coventry City were delayed as fans threw plastic pigs onto the pitch. In March, a 300strong delegation travelled to Sint-Truiden, a Belgian club whose fans are also seething at Duchatelet’s ownership. But a summer of modest rebuilding and a berth in League One’s top six has, for now, settled the natives. Curbishley, though, says Duchatelet must not become complacent. “The main thing is that the owner has picked someone who understands the division and knows what it takes to be successful,” said Curbishley, who was speaking at an event to promote Prostate Cancer UK’s Football to Amsterdam bike ride. “We’ve had lots of managers go in there who didn’t understand the league, had never been there before and had to spend months getting to grips with it.
“Karl was good to go, and you’ve seen the difference.
“Results are good. The anger of fans has eased off. That aspect of things has been very, very difficult for players.
“We all understand the fans’ frustration but, for lads trying to perform while games are being interrupted, with protests and demonstrations – it’s impossible to be at your best.
“What the club needs above anything else is harmony. And that’s why it’s so, so important Karl gets full backing in January.
“He’s got to be given the opportunity to sign the players he wants, not the players the owner wants.
“If he is, he needs to acknowledge it publicly and let supporters know. If not, I’m afraid all the old anger will rise to the surface.”
For Curbishley, the Championship is a minimum requirement for a club that once hosted Manchester United and fielded the likes of Paolo Di Canio.
“In his own way, Karl had a lot of success at MK Dons,” he adds.
“But, with the greatest of respect to MK Dons, expectations at Charlton are a little bit higher.
“It’s imperative that Charlton go up. They have to be back in that Championship. They’re playing in front of 10,000 in a 30,000 stadium and the atmosphere needs lifting. If they can be successful and the fans start to come back, that club will really shift.”
Shifting in this day and age is, of course, a lot harder than it was in the days when the Addicks retained top-flight status on a summer transfer budget of £1.2m.
Curbishley, though, dismisses suggestions that Charlton’s former glories
are unrepeatable in the era of Sheikhs, Sultans and Russian oligarchs.
“It’s harder, but it can still be done,” he insists. “Look at Sheffield United. They won promotion last year. Now, they’re challenging for the Premier League.
“It doesn’t always depend on money. They’ve spent a fraction of some teams up there. If the manager knows what he’s doing and has everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, there’s a chance.
“An even better example is Burnley under Sean Dyche. There are a lot of parallels there. All they’ve got to do now is stay in the Premier League for another five years!”
One aspect of football history that Curbishley doesn’t see reccurring is a manager spending 15 years in the same job.
“It’ll never happen again,” he says definitively. “I’m certain of that. Clubs change hands, new people come in and want their own man. That happens a lot more nowadays.
“The competition for jobs is also more intense. Now, you’ve got foreign managers in the Championship, even League One. That didn’t happen when I was starting off. The landscape has changed completely.”
Curbishley has experienced that competition at the sharp end.
Touted for England in 2006 – he even held informal talks with the FA – the Londoner hasn’t worked in management since leaving West Ham in 2008.
By his own admission, the hiatus was partially self-inflicted. Curbishley had plenty of offers but waited for the perfect job, only to fall off the radar. Nevertheless, he believes he’d have stood a better chance now. “When I left West Ham, the opportunities simply weren’t there,” he explains. “These days, they are. Everton have spent a month looking for a manager. You’ve got West Brom in the hunt. Palace earlier in the season. Leicester and West Ham have both sacked their managers. “Any manager who drops into the bottom three is under enormous pressure. When you look at the EFL, it’s actually much more stable. Once, the Championship was the most precarious division to work in, but that seems to have transferred to the Premier League.” So could Curbs yet make a return? “No, no,” he says. “Not me. I’ve been out too long now. A lot of that’s been my fault, but what’s done is done. The fact is, I don’t think the people who own football clubs now even know who I am!”
LOOKING BACK: Alan Curbishley in his days as Charlton manager Insets: Current boss Karl Robinson, top, and owner Roland Duchatelet
VOICES OF EXPERIENCE: Former Valley bosses Alan Curbishley, centre, and Chris Powell