Curbs says Val­ley peace pact will last if Robin­son can run show

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

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!”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

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

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