Saturday, September 06, 2008

Waitin' For Superman(ager)

S'pose it's about time your coughing correspondent delivers his verdict on the week's comings and goings at his beloved West Ham which saw gaffer Alan Curbishley resign after Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney were sold without his sayso.

Curbs' departure seems premature from the point of view he steered us to safety in his first season, despite a quite unprecedented injury list steadied the ship with a respectable tenth position the next, and had stewarded the teams' best start to a season for nine years this term. He's an experienced manager who can be relied on to deliver stability through dour pragmatism, but with enough knowledge of the West Ham traditions from his playing time at Upton Park to have a sense of loyalty and belonging to the club. It's sad to see him leave in such acrimonious circumstances.

And yet...Tony Cascarino was right this week when he said that Curbs had effectively alienated himself from all four stakeholders - the fans; the board; the media and the players themselves, and his position had become untenable despite some respectable results (40% win record over his tenure).

While many football fans will sympathise with a manager feeling undermined by lack of control over who comes in and out, Curbs is still unproven in terms of transfer dealings at the high end, and his own decision-making in terms of bringing in injury-prone players on ludicrously high wages makes it difficult not to agree the board have a point. Further, had he been more ruthless in shifting players out earlier in the summer the much-criticised timing of the Ferdinand and McCartney departures might have been avoided. Few fans were devastated at the prospect of losing Anton and George (both at best average Premiership performers who offer poor value to Sunderland at £14m imho) when better replacements were being mooted.

The board have shifted McCartney off the payroll for a pretty fee, and brought in a young Uruguyan international on an out-of-contract pick-up as well as a Congolese player on loan, and on the surface of things that looks pretty good business. Ferdinand's departure still leaves us six centre-backs, although minor injuries mean we'll be slightly short in that position for maybe one or two games. Crisis, what crisis?

Much will depend on who comes in to replace the boss, of course. The board appear to be looking for an experienced manager with coaching capabilities and familiarity with the continential style of management structure. Given that in modern football, the Director of Football and board make the decisions on recruitment and the players suit themselves as to whether they put in a shift or not, all that's currently required of a manager is someone to look equal parts dapper, troubled, enigmatic, pensive, inscrutable, mercurial and wise as he looks on at proceedings from the touchline before picking up his £2m payoff at the end of the season, victim of forces beyond his control. Someone who looks like The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, in fact, so step forward Roberto Donadoni as the Parallax View manager of choice. Let's hope it ain't too heavy for him.

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Blogger Robert Hogan said...

My father in law (and therefore, sneakily, my wife) is a hammers fan. Lates odds look toward Zola. He has form, and I would imagine he would have them playing typical west ham football.

All they need to do now is get rid of the mercenaries in the squad, and do what they always did, promote from the academy.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Yes, looks like Zola, in possibly the most transparent recruitment exercise ever. Is it necessary for the board to leak a running commentary on how things are progressing? Seems to have hacked off Donadoni and increased Gianfranco's bargaining power before pen's put to paper on the contract.

It would be nice to believe they know what they're doing, and that Zola's not just been appointed as he poses no threat to Nani, but...

10:44 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

"despite a quite unprecedented injury list" - what did you expect, you bought half your squad straight from our treatment table?! ;)

11:38 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Yeah, but even the Hammers wouldn't buy a used Carr from your team.

Stephen Carr, the Republic of Ireland right back that is, who is rumoured to be recruited back into the Toon Army setup by (I Was Only) Joe Kinnear - can't work out who that's more humiliating for, the Toon for the climbdown in snapping up one of their own rejects, or the player for having no other offers (guess it's been a while since this particular Carr has troubled the speedo...)

10:18 PM  

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