The first managerial departure of the season came today as Alan Curbishley resigned his post as West Ham manager. Curbishley had been at or near the top of the list of managers speculated to go, along with Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan, so this bit of news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
However, the reason for it is very interesting. Managers typically resign or are forced to resign when their teams aren’t playing well on the field and not living up to expectations. That’s not the case here, though; it’s still early in the season but West Ham is in 5th place, having taken six points out of nine and advancing to the 3rd round of the Carling Cup. Curbishley has taken a lot of heat over the years for mediocre finishes at Charlton Athletic and West Ham, some of it fair, but it’s important to remember (and this has been vastly overlooked) that he guided West Ham out of the relegation zone (with the considerable help of Carlos Tevez) in 2006-2007 and may have been leading the Hammers in Europe this season if it wasn’t for the horrific rash of injuries to his first team last year. All-in-all, Curbishley did a fine job at West Ham.
His authority was undermined, however, at the end of this summer’s transfer window and that was the final straw. West Ham sold Anton Ferdinand, still a promising young center back, and George McCartney, who started every league game last season for West Ham at left back. Craig Bellamy was offered publicly as well, though no one came in and made a serious move for the injury-prone striker. Curbishley didn’t seem to have any say in those decisions, and even though a manager’s primary task is to lead the team he has at that moment, it’s still important for him to at least be involved in incoming and outgoing transfers. After all, he’s the one who has to put a squad on the field.
I can’t blame Curbishley for leaving. A lack of trust and cohesion had developed between himself and the front office, and that’s not healthy for either party. His resignation looks better for him personally than him being fired, which may have happened soon anyway if the oddsmakers were right. He can walk away with his head held high while West Ham looks worse as a club for taking crucial bits of control away from the man who really needed it most.