Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Vagaries Of Football Ownership

Alan Curbishley believes Liverpool’s American owners have harmed the club’s chances of silverware by their inability to keep quiet off the pitch. The West Ham United manager has had plenty to say ahead of tonight's clash with Rafael Benitez’s side, who arrive at Upton Park tonight well adrift of Manchester United and Arsenal in the battle for Premier League glory. Curbishley admitted he had been astonished by the constant stream of stories emanating from Anfield this season, including the revelation that Jurgen Klinsmann had been approached about succeeding the Spaniard. Speculation about a buy-out and reports that co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have differing ideas about how the club should be run have also helped turn the current campaign into a soap opera. And Curbishley is convinced that it is a betrayal of Liverpool’s golden era of the 1970s and ’80s when an absence of controversy behind the scenes was the key to glory on the pitch.

Speaking to Sky News, Curbishley stated, "What is happening now - in the atmosphere we have got in the Premier League with new owners appearing every month - is that perhaps they are not really up on the way football is and the traditions, and the way to perhaps conduct yourself. A loose comment here and a loose comment there can make a big difference. When I played it was the players that were written about. Then it changed to the managers and now it’s the chairmen more than anyone else. It’s an interesting circle. But if the relationship between the manager and chairman isn’t strong then it won’t work. I played against the great Liverpool sides. They won the games, won everything and nothing else ever came out of the club. It was always a club that got on with things in-house but what’s happening now is distracting for the manager and players."

In contrast, Curbishley enjoys a healthy relationship with his chairman, Icelandic businessman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, and has urged the American duo to change their ways if they want Liverpool to be successful. "There are lots of things chairmen of clubs need to realise," Curbishley said. "They need to understand the tradition and the history - even if it's all new to them. They may think it's normal business rules, but football is different. It's not like any other business, it has different rules. One thing you have to do is adhere to the history and tradition of the club and I think at West Ham we've managed to do that. I speak with the chairman on the phone and he lets me get on with my job, just like I did under Richard Murray at Charlton, and I'm happy with that. When Eggert Magnusson was here we had constant dialogue and since it’s changed I’ve not had that but we speak often and he has left me to get on with it. There is also a bit of turmoil in his world with the banks but I think he’s quite happy with how things are going here."

West Ham's stability under the Icelandic billionaire is a major contrast to the upheaval at Liverpool and Curbishley says that the turmoil engulfing Anfield has severely hindered Benitez's title hopes. "Liverpool are a top side," Curbishley said. "The only thing which is perhaps happening at Anfield is there's lots of stuff coming out. They've always been a club which has got on with it and everything has been in-house, so nothing has really come out of the club. But now there are stories about this, stories about that, and I suppose it's distracting for the manager and the players. Rafa has only been there a few years and it takes time, whatever we say about the Premier League. They've won everything else and we shouldn't forget that."

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