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Alan Curbishley: Part Three

Filed: Wednesday, 1st August 2007

By: Gary Jones and Colin Wells

Alan Curbishley took time out from the recent pre-season tour of Austria to talk to Gary Jones and Colin Wells. In the final part of our exclusive three-part interview, Curbs talks to KUMB.com about pre-season, his squad and the plans to move away from Upton Park ...

KUMB.com: This is your team now?

Alan Curbishley: Itís 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 didnít want to be here we did something about it - simple as that. There were no big bust ups; football is not that way now - itís 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 Iíve never had a bust-up with Paul. He felt he wanted to leave, I said, Ďletís get to the end of the season and weíll sort it outí. The same with Marlon, he was that way inclined as well.

All I said to the club was, Ďif you get the right money and they donít want to be here, then the decision Öí 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 Iíve 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 Iíll 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, weíre a bit skinny in certain areas and Iíve got to make sure that we donít get left a little bit bare when the window closes. But itís difficult because we are looking for certain qualities.

KUMB: Is it the midfield youíre focusing on?

AC: No, anything can happen - things change as you go along. I know the areas where I think weíre a bit skinny and we need to improve on that, so if we can we will. But Iíve said to the club, Ďthis is what I think we need to do, can they go and do ití - but weíre not irresponsible. I think that a lot of the press is negative, I donít 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 heíd want to invest in it because itís renowned for the players thatíve 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 heís 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 theyíve not done too bad - Anton, Noble Ö

But first thingís first. Eggertís come in a month before me, the club is in a relegation battle, thatís gone now and weíre looking to establish ourselves as a decent Premiership side. I think that the next step is to invest in the academy. Iíve 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.

Iíve only been here for six months and Iíve been concentrating on the first team, as we sit here now. Iíve got my staff [in place]. Iím happy, I think the players are happy with the people weíve got, the physics and fitness people - and I hope theyíve enjoyed the pre-season.

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

A: Yeah, well I donít know what went on before. I donít 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 weíve 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 - Iíve got no problem there.

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

A: No, Iíve got some good friends who are West Ham fans and they were suffering as well, as I said earlier. I didnít realise how great the responsibility of being West Ham manager was, but I do now. What Iíve said to these players this year is that if you 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 theyíve been treated right.

Perhaps the players have got to mend a few bridges? I donít think that is the case because I think the fans, if they think their team is trying, thatís enough for them - but we got a lot of bad press last year and I include off the field. Iím part of it, we got a lot of bad press for all sorts of things and weíve got to change that - weíve got 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 theyíve 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 Ö

KUMB: Iím not sure Ö

AC: And the piece of land that weíre talking about is directly opposite the house I lived in Gainsborough Road Ö

KUMB: Is that that Parcel Force?

AC: Parcel Force, yeah - itís 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, theyíre called Kimberley Gardens now but they were called Manor Road Buildings when I lived there. Things have changed. I said to Eggert, ĎI can't believe the piece of land youíre being given, itís just half-a-mile from where I was brought upí. I think he was quite impressed by that because although he thought I was a West Ham boy I donít 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 Iíve 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. Itís 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 Ďwhatís Curbishley like?í and he said Ďheís proper West Ham.í Nick worked with you for years when he was at Charlton, didnít 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 Ö

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 í86 - fine, great, you know. But a lot of them talk about the Brookings and the Bondsí.

KUMB: í75 onwards for us Ö

AC: The Lampards and the Hollands Ö David Cross is one of our scouts now. It was my era. Itís great that the Chairmanís got Bonzo back , heís come to the games near the end and felt at home so obviously heíll take it on. Trevorís still around.

But thereís a lot of fans now that donít remember that - weíve got a lot of fans wanting. Weíve 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, weíll give them a competitive team.

So we move on. We can't forget what happened to us - I donít think that anyone should forget that youíre 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. Iím saying to the players, Ďsort out the little ones because I know you can compete with the big onesí. I donít go overboard, I donít jump up and down etc. etc. but I know whatís 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 theyíve learnt from the last three years. At Old Trafford, for the last game, I didnít see any nerves because theyíve been to finals. Theyíve been to a play-off final and lost, theyíve been to a play-off final and won, theyíve been to an FA Cup Final and lost - so that wasnít 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 Iím concerned, we start afresh and everyone starts afresh - the people that wasnít in the side at the end, Iíve not got any favourites, Iíve not picked a side. My immediate concern is to get through tomorrow night.

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

AC: Iím 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 theyíve 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 weíve trained hard before the Sigma game. I must admit that the injury [to Faubert] done us a little bit because we all knew what heíd done, and it was a bit deflating in the end.

But weíre looking to get fit, and I will know by Tuesday/Wednesday night if weíre on our way because I know what the fitness levels were at Charlton. But I think weíve got a fit bunch of boys. So weíre looking forward to it. I donít know if itís any different from last year, I donít 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 thatís the way it went. Anton done his hamstring, Dean done his ankle and I think Etherington done his knee. You couldnít 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 thatís what happens.

For me, I see it as a challenge. Iím looking forward to it and I want to do well for all sorts of reasons. But I mainly want to do well because Iím a West Ham boy. Weíll go from there.

KUMB: Alan - thank you for your time.