Friday, 3 August 2007

KUMB Q & A: Alan Curbishley (part three)

Here is the third 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... This is your team now?

Alan Curbishley: It’s my backroom staff - and I feel all the players here today want to be here. At the end of the season I asked the players if they wanted to be here or if they wanted to go. If they didn’t want to be here we did something about it - simple as that. There were no big bust ups; football is not that way now - it’s a totally different game altogether. The only one who was a disappointment was Yossi, because he had agreed to stay. He agreed a five year contract - I was on holiday when he agreed it and I was happy as could be. Then Liverpool changed his mind, so that was a disappointing one.

Nigel [Reo-Coker] intimated [that he wanted to leave] at Christmas, after Christmas and at the end of the season. So end of season was the time to sort it out. Paul Konchesky - contrary to what people might think I’ve never had a bust-up with Paul. He felt he wanted to leave, I said, ‘let’s get to the end of the season and we’ll sort it out’. The same with Marlon, he was that way inclined as well.

All I said to the club was, ‘if you get the right money and they don’t want to be here, then the decision …’ I want players that want to be here, but they gave their lot in the run-in, all of them. Nigel played all the games for me, Marlon played games and was on the fringe of it - and scored an important goal up at Wigan. Yossi was totally committed. But I’ve got 20-odd players now that want to be here, and if we can bring a couple more in before the window closes I think I’ll have players focused at the right age with the right enthusiasm and the right ingredients for the Premiership.

KUMB: What areas are you trying to fill now? Obviously the right-hand side looks short?

AC: Yeah, we’re a bit skinny in certain areas and I’ve got to make sure that we don’t get left a little bit bare when the window closes. But it’s difficult because we are looking for certain qualities.

KUMB: Is it the midfield you’re focusing on?

AC: No, anything can happen - things change as you go along. I know the areas where I think we’re a bit skinny and we need to improve on that, so if we can we will. But I’ve said to the club, ‘this is what I think we need to do, can they go and do it’ - but we’re not irresponsible. I think that a lot of the press is negative, I don’t know why.

KUMB: I'd like to speak about the youth team set-up. Obviously, Tony Carr and his staff have done a fantastic job in recent times. Eggert said when he came in that he wanted to rebuild the Academy - do you know what he meant by that?

AC: I think he said he’d want to invest in it because it’s renowned for the players that have come through - like a lot of clubs. I had Bowyer, Parker and other young players coming through regularly at Charlton, then we had a bit of a void. But I think most clubs in London have had that, because the players have got to be of such [high standard] to get in Premiership first teams as the competition is so great. You find that if a young English player gets in his team then within a season or two he’s being pushed for the full [national] squad because that is the nature of it now. West Ham have had a little bit of a void but they’ve not done too bad - Anton, Noble …

But first thing’s first. Eggert’s come in a month before me, the club is in a relegation battle, that’s gone now and we’re looking to establish ourselves as a decent Premiership side. I think that the next step is to invest in the academy. I’ve spoke to Tony and I know everybody there - Jimmy Anderson was my youth development officer at Charlton before he left to come over to West Ham. I’ve only been here for six months and I’ve been concentrating on the first team, as we sit here now. I’ve got my staff [in place]. I’m happy, I think the players are happy with the people we’ve got, the physics and fitness people - and I hope they’ve enjoyed the pre-season.

KUMB: The buzz amongst the players and the staff … to compare this to before …

A: Yeah, well I don’t know what went on before. I don’t know how things were done except to say that once it all settles down is it up to you to impose what you want. So we’ve had a little bit of a change around and the people that have left - funnily enough - have gone to Charlton! I wrote to them all personally thanking them for their efforts - I’ve got no problem there.

KUMB: Do you ever feel as if you’ve not been given enough credit for last season?

A: No, I’ve got some good friends who are West Ham fans and they were suffering as well, as I said earlier. I didn’t realise how great the responsibility of being West Ham manager was, but I do now. What I’ve said to these players this year is that if you work for West Ham you work for us - and it means everything. It means on the field, off the field; it means signing balls, signing shirts; it means doing all the things that mean a lot to people. Whilst it may not count too much for them it counts for every fan that gets something, or a fan who feels they’ve been treated right.

Perhaps the players have got to mend a few bridges? I don’t think that is the case because I think the fans, if they think their team is trying, that’s enough for them - but we got a lot of bad press last year and I include off the field. I’m part of it, we got a lot of bad press for all sorts of things and we’ve got to change that - we’ve got to be talked about for football. We [had that] near the end [of the season] and we have got to carry on. As I say, with off the field activities they’ve got to be very careful.

KUMB: One last question Alan. Moving away from Upton Park - is that something that you are aware of?

AC: Yeah. I was brought up a mile from West Ham station, in Gainsborough Road. I went to Gainsborough Road primary school, I then went to South West Ham Tech on the Barking Road which was called Trinity, now it might be something else …

KUMB: I’m not sure …

AC: And the piece of land that we’re talking about is directly opposite the house I lived in Gainsborough Road …

KUMB: Is that that Parcel Force?

AC: Parcel Force, yeah - it’s exactly opposite where I used to walk over Star Lane to go to school every day.

KUMB: By our original ground?

AC: Yeah. I lived in the flats that backed onto that, they’re called Kimberley Gardens now but they were called Manor Road Buildings when I lived there. Things have changed. I said to Eggert, ‘I can't believe the piece of land you’re being given, it’s just half-a-mile from where I was brought up’. I think he was quite impressed by that because although he thought I was a West Ham boy I don’t think he realised how [much of a] West Ham boy.

My brother has bought four season tickets; I get tickets, but he still bought four - he wants to go and sit where he wants to sit and I’ve got a lot of other pressure put on me. My wife comes from Wilshaw Road, which is down the side of the statue, all the family come from East Ham. It’s a big thing, every day is a West Ham day.

KUMB: I did my research on that because a friend of mine is Nick Hollings - he used to support Charlton. I asked him ‘what’s Curbishley like?’ and he said ‘he’s proper West Ham.’ Nick worked with you for years when he was at Charlton, didn’t he?

AC: Yeah. I always enjoyed going back to Upton Park - I had a good record actually!

KUMB: Yeah you did when you were with Charlton - for a bit …

AC: Yeah, I loved it. It was great for me and Merv, we come from an era which I think a lot of fans relate to - you know, the players that they talk about now. People talk about the boys of ’86 - fine, great, you know. But a lot of them talk about the Brookings and the Bonds.

KUMB: ’75 onwards for us …

AC: The Lampards and the Hollands … David Cross is one of our scouts now. It was my era. It’s great that the Chairman’s got Bonzo back, he’s come to the games near the end and felt at home so obviously he’ll take it on. Trevor’s still around. But there’s a lot of fans now that don’t remember that - we’ve got a lot of fans wanting. We’ve got to give them something else now and I like to think that the least we are going to give them is a competitive team. If everyone stays fit, and we get off to the start I would like, we’ll give them a competitive team.

So we move on. We can't forget what happened to us - I don’t think that anyone should forget that you’re one game away from going down, you know, but the way I look at it is that a season starts now and ends there - and we got 41 points. We may have got 41 points in a rather peculiar way but you still need 41 points. When I came in I knew we had to get over 38 - I looked at it and thought we need 38 or more to stay up. So it needed eight or nine wins, and we ended up doing it the wrong way - we ended up beating the top teams and lost to the smaller ones. I’m saying to the players, ‘sort out the little ones because I know you can compete with the big ones’. I don’t go overboard, I don’t jump up and down etc. etc. but I know what’s going on and I do feel that the team last year was very young and needed a bit of direction.

KUMB: But they learnt from it?

AC: I hope so. I think they’ve learnt from the last three years. At Old Trafford, for the last game, I didn’t see any nerves because they’ve been to finals. They’ve been to a play-off final and lost, they’ve been to a play-off final and won, they’ve been to an FA Cup Final and lost - so that wasn’t a problem. You know, we got a bit of luck - as you say, the Blackburn game, [we had] a bit of luck there. But something happened in that game, as it happened in the Spurs game. I think we had a bit of a surge in that game - we were one down and had a surge where for 20 minutes or so we were kicking down that end and got the two goals and held on. I thought something came back to the team and it was different from then on. So as far as I’m concerned, we start afresh and everyone starts afresh - the people that wasn’t in the side at the end, I’ve not got any favourites, I’ve not picked a side. My immediate concern is to get through tomorrow night.

KUMB: Are you going to ask that it goes back?

AC: I’m going to try - my idea was to play two separate teams so everyone gets 90 minutes.

KUMB: Like at Dagenham?

AC: Well, no - one team will play for 90 minutes at Orient and one team will play for 90 minutes at MK Dons. No favourites, because I think by then they’ve all had three half games but then they get a full 90 minutes in and we start pushing on. After three weeks of work you need a 90 minute [run out]. I tend to work hard in pre-season. We trained hard before the Dagenham game and we’ve trained hard before the Sigma game. I must admit that the injury [to Faubert] done us a little bit because we all knew what he’d done, and it was a bit deflating in the end. But we’re looking to get fit, and I will know by Tuesday/Wednesday night if we’re on our way because I know what the fitness levels were at Charlton. But I think we’ve got a fit bunch of boys. So we’re looking forward to it. I don’t know if it’s any different from last year, I don’t know if anyone was out pre-season.

Last year after the final there were three or four people who had to have operations, so they had them during pre-season - I think that’s the way it went. Anton done his hamstring, Dean done his ankle and I think Etherington done his knee. You couldn’t say at any stage last year what that team was going to be and that was a big problem. If Alan [Pardew] had been lucky enough to have kept it like that he may still be at West Ham - but that’s what happens. For me, I see it as a challenge. I’m looking forward to it and I want to do well for all sorts of reasons. But I mainly want to do well because I’m a West Ham boy. We’ll go from there.

KUMB: Alan - thank you for your time.

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