Sunday, 29 July 2007

KUMB Q&A: Alan Curbishley (part two)

Here is the second part of an exclusive interview given by Alan Curbishley on the recent pre-season tour of Austria. It is taken from KUMB and credit goes to Gary Jones and Colin Wells for their excellent work in making this happen... On transfers Alan – do you work out a list of targets with Eggert?

Alan Curbishley: Yeah. I have nothing to do with the finances - Scott Duxbury deals with transfers and [when signing a player] if we get him, we get him. If he’s too expensive, or if they think it’s getting out of hand then they’ll call me into it and we’ll have a discussion. It’s totally different to what I did at Charlton – there I did the lot, and I don’t feel that that’s my brief at the moment. So much goes into a transfer – it doesn’t happen in a day, it can take weeks - Bellamy took two weeks, and it goes on …

KUMB: And why is that – because of the player’s agent, or different circumstances?

AC: They don’t need to haggle over a price because we pose the price first. When the club are saying ‘no’ then it becomes difficult as transfers are protracted now.

KUMB: Why do you think that is?

AC: Because it’s so hard to get a player. You know, you let a player go and you’ve got to get that cover in straight away or …

KUMB: Is it because of the transfer windows?

AC: No. It’s so difficult to get a player - a lot of clubs are just saying ‘no’ and they don’t want a deal. Not just to us but to everybody; there’s not been a lot of transfers at all [this summer].

KUMB: Do you find that at the moment that the same clubs are going for the same type of players?

AC: Yeah, but that’s always the same. The newly promoted clubs will go for players that have just been relegated or players that have done well at other teams in the lower end of it because they can attract them and they can pay the fees and wages. It’s all relative. There are a lot of people, as I said last week, that would like us not just to walk before we could crawl but run before we can crawl - and there’s a big difference in expectation levels. If you look at it our biggest fee has been £7.5million - we’ve took more in. Other clubs have paid more in fees and wages to players than we could so it isn’t an OK Corale, it isn’t like …

KUMB: … the Leeds situation?

AC: No. We’re not irresponsible, during this window we’ve taken as much as we’ve spent. Obviously Christmas was different - we were in trouble and if you care to look at the players we brought in I’m looking at the right age, I’m looking at the right experience, and the right characters for us. At the moment we’ve just replaced people, but there’s still another five weeks to go to see if we can bring someone else in.

KUMB: The expectation levels are high - my son has gone through a number of threads on KUMB and it’s a common theme. What’s a realistic aim for next year Alan?

AC: Top ten. I think that mid-table for us is where we should be - not forgetting what happened to us last year. But we’ve got players that are good enough for us to have a solid season. If we have a solid season that makes us a little bit more attractive for next year and people start to know about us. We’ve got to get that. There’s a lot of negativity around us, there was a lot of negativity all last year and most of the press was negative. We’ve got to spin that around by what we do on the pitch and hopefully we’ll do that this year. That’s not being negative, top ten’s a decent position …

KUMB: I’d be well pleased with that.

AC: I think a lot of people will look at that and go ‘ooh, that’s negative’ – but it’s not, it’s a proper expectation level for us and if we do a little bit better then fine, if we do a little bit worse than that, that’s disappointing. You know, if you finish mid-table and turn three draws into three wins you’re around Europe. From being in Europe to being in the relegation battle is only 12 points [or so].

KUMB: Yeah, it’s a fine line.

AC: You know, if we end up having the season where we gather six to eight points more than we did last year, and instead of finishing fifth from bottom we finish mid-table ... But I asked Eggert for assurance that if it goes belly up he would be backing it - and he assured me he was, and he assured all the staff at Upton Park through that run that he was in a big meeting. He announced [his plans], and they’re not short term.

KUMB: Has he got a good business plan?

AC: Yeah. I think he’s a little bit misunderstood, he needs to get out around the supporter’s clubs. I think he needs to get out and express himself a bit more but he’s not here for the quick fix - he wants to build a club.

KUMB: He’s a football man as well …

AC: He’s got more football knowledge than most people give him credit for, and he’s been around football all his life.

KUMB: He was on UEFA’s Executive Committee, of course.

AC: Yeah, and he knows players and he’s got a lot of contacts. You know, I asked him two things – ‘if it goes wrong are you going to back it?’ and ‘is it a long term plan with solid foundations?’ I reminded him that West Ham have yo-yo’d the last ten years …

KUMB: Yeah we know that!

AC: They’ve yo-yo’d, you know. Charlton were like that but every year we just got a little bit stronger. We’re not talking about Tottenham but in the last four to five years you can see what they’ve managed to do - they’ve stabilised themselves and then they’ve gone for the best young talent. They’ve bought well and that’s gradually improved them. West Ham have been too much like that. Someone told me recently how they got two tickets for the Cup Final for a friend. They came to the game and they said it was the best day, even though they lost. They said, ‘I can say I was there’, because it was a celebration, you know. When you think of West Ham it is highs and lows - and when they get a high they do get high! The story I got was that there were so many limousines and whatever turning up at the Millennium that you couldn’t believe it - it was just unbelievable. They were making a day of it and they enjoyed themselves. When West Ham fans enjoy themselves they enjoy themselves - and when there are down, they’re down.

I had some Charlton fans come in for the run-in and they’ve not heard a noise. They said the noise and the atmosphere at Upton Park for the Everton and Bolton games was unbelievable. All I’ve said to the players - especially the ones coming in – is that if you give the fans something to get behind they’ll get behind it and if you’re not giving them anything then they’ll let you know. I don’t see a problem with that and I did say that when I was getting heavily criticised. It’s when [the media] were criticising things that happen every day on the training ground and when they were fabricating, sensationalising things - that was when it was getting out of hand. But you know, I had no problem with the criticism I was getting.

KUMB: But on that point Alan, and as you know, at the Charlton game there were a lot of West Ham fans singing ‘there’s only one Alan Pardew’. Did that bother you?

AC: Well, no - it was a lot of friction between fans.

KUMB: We found it very disrespectful, you know. What are your thoughts on that?

AC: It’s difficult to say because I done fifteen years at Charlton and I think the Charlton fans wanted to give me a good reception, but they couldn’t because the game was so important.

KUMB: Well, it was a big game …

AC: Well, we got walloped and the obvious thing is to do that. As I said earlier in the interview Alan Pardew done great for West Ham, he turned it around. You know, the signings he had to make, he had to sell big and buy small if you like.

KUMB: He got a good core of young players in from other clubs.

AC: Yeah, but sometimes that’s easier to work. When you can only shop at a certain supermarket it’s easier than perhaps when you’re being given some money to spend and your market may be different areas. But that’s what I said after the Bolton game; I didn’t think that anything was going to happen at West Ham. I don’t think the fans did and I don’t think Pards did but these things happen, you know. It’s difficult, but it was obvious things were going on that I had no control of and I just felt ‘well I can't do anything about this.’

KUMB: What is it like working in a situation where money is no object compared to your previous managerial role at Charlton?

AC: Well, I think that’s wrong because if you look at what we’ve done, as I said, Bellamy is the biggest price at £7.5million, which [is less than we received] for Nigel Reo-Coker. There’s lots of talk about what we’re supposed to have done and what we’re supposed to be doing. As for the wages people are purporting that we’re paying – well, if we were paying those wages we would have had whoever we wanted coming in to the club.

KUMB: Does that include people like Darren Bent?

AC: Yeah, we would have had whoever. It’s just that they’ve latched onto something - I’ve read somewhere that we were offering someone £85,000 a week, but we hadn’t even spoke to Everton about anything. You know, it’s just something to write. But it is different to Charlton.

KUMB: Because of the status of West Ham United?

AC: I think because Eggert’s come in and because we’ve got big backers and lots of money. But once again, Bellamy is the biggest fee £7.5million, Parker’s the next one at £7 million; Faubert and Upson at £6million. At Christmas, when we obviously had to do things to change it around, the fees we were paying then we thought would be normal this year because of the extra money coming in - and we’ve been proved right. But we’re happy with what we’ve done. We’ve lost out on players because other clubs have paid them more, so if it was a question of money then we would have won it. But I think we’re being sensible, we know what we’re trying to do.

KUMB: On those signings – Craig Bellamy?

I think Bellamy’s got a lot to prove. I’ve said it to him, ‘you’ve got a reputation which I think is not quite right but the only way you’ll turn that around is by becoming a hero at Upton Park so they talk about you about your football as opposed to anything else’. If you care to look at him, I think there was only one bust-up and that was at Newcastle. If you look at his record, it’s quite clear. Norwich, young up-and-coming player, they sold him; Coventry got relegated so they had to sell him; Newcastle, Bobby Robson bought him and with another manager it didn’t work out. He then goes to Celtic and does fantastic at Blackburn. Liverpool activated the get out clause, he then goes to Liverpool, has a year and there are no rows there. He’s had no fights there, no discrepancies or anything. I’ve done my background into it. They’ve changed, they’ve gone and bought different players - and he’s left.

I said, ‘if you come to us the West Ham fans will love you if you do what you do. They don’t want to hear anything else, they just want you to do what’s right’. So he comes I think a little bit angry and hungry. Parker does too because he played for England eight months ago. I’m saying to him, ‘you’ve got to get back to what you were doing at Charlton. You played like two men to get away, now you’ve got to play like two men to get back in the England squad’. He is a different character completely.

KUMB: The ultimate professional?

AC: Totally, he sets the tempo in training.

KUMB: They looked good in training, I mean, all of them are up for it.

AC: I think Faubert has every ingredient you want from a wide player. It’s unfortunate what has happened to him. But I count Upson as a massive new signing, I think in the 30 minutes he played you could see he was a player, Ashton’s like a new signing - when he gets himself 100% right - and Gabbidon too. My first game was Man U and we had fitness tests for Ferdinand and Collins the day before. They both said they were fit. Next game Collins was out and Christian Dailly went in with Ferdinand. Then we brought Gabbidon back, he lasted a couple of games and then him and Collins were both injured in the same game against Fulham. We lost Tevez that game as well so things were going on which people completely forgot about - but we were getting smashed in every which way.

KUMB: Was there a fitness issue with the players?

AC: I can only talk about what is happening now, and I think that they’ve attacked the pre-season. We got to the summer and I thought it was the right time to have a change around. Pardew wanted some of these people, I wanted some of mine and I felt that the summer was the only time to do it. The six months I had working with other people’s staff and other people’s players wasn’t a bed of roses, I must admit - but I got on with it. I just felt that we had to get through it and then when we got to the summer it would sort itself out. So there’s been a bit of a turnaround now.

KUMB: So this is your team now?

AC: It’s my backroom staff - and I feel all the players here today want to be here.

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