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Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 00:01 UK

Curbishley cool under pressure

By Chris Bevan

Alan Curbishley
Curbishley took charge of West Ham in December 2006

If Alan Curbishley is feeling the pressure, he is doing a good job of hiding it.

The West Ham boss is the bookmakers' favourite to be the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season.

After spending 15 years in charge of Charlton Athletic, where his job was one of the safest in football, having his head under the guillotine is a new experience for the 50-year-old.

But, following Saturday's 1-1 friendly draw with Villarreal, when he was again quizzed about his future, Curbishley did not come across as a man who is fearing the chop.

He even raised a smile as he told BBC Sport: "I've been used to being a 40-1 outsider for the sack but there always comes a time when a manager is put in this position - it seems this is my turn.

"It soon goes around and focuses on someone else.

"It is something I don't need but nothing surprises me in football anymore though. The bookies have made their predictions and we will have to see what happens.

"It doesn't concern me, only if it comes true. But I am confident I have got the backing of the club and the board."

To most observers, it seems strange that Curbishley is even being talked about to lose his job, let alone the favourite.

Alan Curbishley 11-2 fav
Kevin Keegan 13-2
Gary Megson 7-1
Mark Hughes 8-1
Paul Ince 10-1
* Odds provided by William Hill and correct on 10 August

He is clearly puzzled too.

Curbishley points out that he kept the Hammers up after arriving at Upton Park in December 2006, then finished 10th in his first full season last time out, and says he is "a bit miffed" by the rumours.

But, in truth, Curbishley's position has been in doubt since he won only one of his first 12 league games in charge.

Last season's consistency, despite a crippling injury list, did not silence the naysayers and a summer of strife - and financial uncertainty - at Upton Park has not helped matters.

Most recently, the club paid off Freddie Ljungberg to release him from his contract - between 3m and 6m depending which newspaper you buy.

The Hammers had to release a statement on Friday absolving Curbishley from blame for the Swede's lucrative deal after vice-chairman Asgeir Fridgeirsson seemingly pointed the finger at him.

Fridgeirsson had said: "It's the manager and his management team who are responsible for paying out the player's salary."

Bobby Zamora also sounded off about the club's finances after being sold, along with John Paintsil, to Fulham for a combined 6.3m.

And goalkeeper Rob Green spoke out publicly about the Hammers' failure to offer him a new contract.

"Those stories are things I don't need," Curbishley added. "I would like us to be on the back pages for the right reasons.

Alan Curbishley celebrates after keeping West Ham up in 2007
Alan Curbishley celebrates after keeping West Ham up in 2007
"I tried ever so hard last year to stop people taking pot-shots at us but it seems to have come back."

It is down to Curbishley to steady the ship, and placate those fans who are dissatisfied with his reign.

The main charge against him from Hammers' supporters, aside from his perceived negativity in playing only one striker for long spells of last season, is that most of his expensive signings have been injury-prone.

So it has hardly helped that Wales striker Craig Bellamy, who has not played 90 minutes of competitive football since 21 October 2007, will miss at least the first month of the season.

Or that ex-England forward Kieron Dyer has suffered a stress fracture that will keep him on the sidelines as he looks to return from the horrific broken leg he suffered almost a year ago.

True, Curbishley's record at Upton Park is hardly impressive - he has won only 25 of his 67 games in charge of the Hammers.

And he has spent a lot of money - 47m including 5m on this summer's sole major purchase Valon Behrami from Lazio.

That includes 22.5m on four players - Bellamy, Ljungberg, Kieron Dyer and Julien Faubert - who so far have made only a combined total of 34 league starts because of injury.


Curbishley has raised money too - just over 20m to be exact - but it does not appear he has much more to spend before his side begin the season against Wigan on Saturday.

So will the bookmakers be proved right? A lot will surely depend on how the Hammers start the new campaign.

"It is always important to get off to a good start. After the first eight games things settle down a little bit and you can see where you are," Curbishley added.

He will hope he is not in the same place as Glenn Roeder, who was fired by the Hammers just two games into the season in 2003.

The Hammers are not a sacking club - they have had only 11 full-time managers in their 113-year history - so surely Curbishley will get time to prove himself at Upton Park.

see also
Lawro's Premier League guide
12 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Hull to Old Trafford
11 Aug 08 |  Football
Curbishley backed over Ljungberg
08 Aug 08 |  West Ham
Ljungberg agrees to leave Hammers
06 Aug 08 |  West Ham
Lastuvka joins West Ham on loan
04 Aug 08 |  West Ham
West Ham sign Lazio star Behrami
23 Jul 08 |  West Ham
Hammers to make summer signings
17 Jul 08 |  West Ham
End of big spending at West Ham
09 May 08 |  West Ham
Curbishley fury at Dyer leg break
29 Aug 07 |  West Ham
West Ham swoop to sign Ljungberg
23 Jul 07 |  West Ham
Kiely backs under-fire Curbishley
01 Mar 07 |  West Ham
Curbishley to leave Charlton job
29 Apr 06 |  Charlton

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