Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is Curbishley Worried Man...

Alan Curbishley is the bookie's favourite to be the first managerial casualty of the new season. Football FanCast columnist Alex Dimond reacts to the news, and wonders if the West Ham manager has reason to be worried.

Installed as 4/1 favourite to be the first manager to get the sack this season, Alan Curbishley has every reason to be a little bit nervous. However, speaking yesterday, the West Ham manager seemed remarkably calm: "I'm not bothered,". I'm not a gambling man. I had 15 years at Charlton as outsider to get the sack. But I don't think I'm under pressure. Other people like to stir things up and make it worse."

Nevertheless, ahead of Kevin Keegan and Gary Megson in the pecking order, the bookies are adamant Curbishley should be looking over his shoulder. West Ham had a comfortable but uninspiring season last time, with a 10th place finish always on the cards. The club's Icelandic owner, Björgólfur Guðmundsson,is ambitious, and will be looking for more from the club this time out.

However, considering all the injuries the Hammers suffered last season, a 10th place finish was very respectable. With the more frequent availability of Julien Faubert, Kieron Dyer, Freddie Ljungberg and Dean Ashton this term, the team will undoubtedly be a lot stronger - giving reasonable cause to believe they can challenge for European football.

Unfortunately, no team in Premiership rests on its laurels, and while West Ham's rivals have all spent the summer improving their squads, the Hammers have been conspicuous in their lack of action. Having sold Bobby Zamora and John Paintsil, the club has only added Valon Behrami (£5m) and the promising Icelandic youngster Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson to their ranks. Behrami, a Swiss international, will be involved in first team duties but Eyjolfsson is one for the future.

Such a lack of activity suggests Curbishley has faith in his current squad. While the return of his injured players will undoubtedly boost the team, relying completely on them looks like an error. Considering the transfer activity and strength of all the other Premiership teams, repeating a 10th place finish will not be an easy feat without some transfer investment. The club have been linked with some big names, like Barcelona's Eidur Gudjohnsen, but so far no deal has been concluded.

However, the real problem for Curbishley was the poor, uninspired performances from his team that plagued the second half of their season. It was this that really angered the fans, and if such performances continue this season Curbishley may well feel the wrath of his chairman.
Fortunately, the likes of Behrami, Dyer and Faubert - not to mention youth starlet Freddie Sears - should bring some much-needed flair and excitement to Upton Park. But they don't guarantee it, just as they don't guarantee 3 points every Saturday. That is down to the manager. With the right direction, the club can qualify for European football next season. But with the wrong decisions, and more injuries, the club could find itself in real trouble. The bookies, rarely wrong, seem to be predicting the latter.

Curbishley says he isn't bothered. Perhaps he should be.

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