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The ultimate question

Filed: Sunday, 5th August 2007
By: Alex Shilling

It's one that surely all of us must have asked ourselves over the past few months; would we have stayed up if Pardew had been given another chance?

The knee-jerk reaction of a hammer is no, Pardew was leading us into trouble, we'd lost three games on the trot, he'd failed to man-manage Tevez and Mascherano successfully, The Egg was right to sack him. But in sacking Pardew, there appeared to be only one serious candidate to step into the hot seat at Upton Park. His name was Alan Curbishley.

Magnusson appointed this sallow-faced former player of West Ham and admitted some weeks later that he wanted Curbs in charge even before he sacked Pardew. It seems to me that Pardew would have had to win at least two out of the three games that we lost in order to remain in the job. With a dysfunctional team which had just dropped into the relegation zone and was scant of confidence, was this all that likely?

I'm not saying the chairman was being unreasonable, but he did put a certain amount of pressure on Pardew to produce his best form as a manager yet in surely the worst spell of results he had endured during his tenure of manager of West Ham. Magnusson saw Pardew's failure to respond to this pressure effectively as a weakness and so fired him, citing his reign as cancerous.

At the time of the dismissal, I was shocked, like everybody else and thought it was unfair, particularly after results didn't come for Curbishley's team, and the chairman was far more tolerant and gave more support than he ever did in his dealings with Pardew.

In late February, the team crashed 4-0 at relegation rivals Charlton and every day I scanned the papers and internet searching for the headline 'Curbishley is sacked.' I knew it wouldn't do any good to our survival bid, but I just wanted us to start again and prepare as well we could for the promotion attempt from the championship, with a new manager.

But one game changed my opinion of Curbishley. As everybody else was shuffling off gloomily towards the tube, bemoaning another terrible home display against Tottenham in which we had managed to throw away a two-goal lead to crash 4-3 with two goals from Spurs being scored in added time, I was actually quite happy with the performance.

Sure, the defence had fallen apart in the second half but our manager had finally got his tactics right, and I thought that if we could win at Blackburn the following week, then we had a realistic chance of staying up.

And of course we all know what happened next, we beat Blackburn 2-1 with two extremely dodgy goals, the slice of luck cake we had finally got, if a bit late in the meal, and we went on from there, Middlesbrough, 2-0, Arsenal, unbelievably, at the Emirates, 1-0, and not only were Curbishley's team winning, they were winning well, playing exciting extravagant football which put world-class players on their backsides.

There was the occasional slip-up, such as the defeat to Sheffield United in April, but we picked up form and played just as well at home to Chelsea as we had at Arsenal, despite getting beaten 4-1, and won our last three games to stay up.

The moral of this piece is that with Pardew for the season, in my opinion, we would have been relegated. Despite his popularity and PR skills, Pardew failed the test that the Premiership set him last year, instead of building on the team that reached the FA Cup Final in 2006, he made poor summer signings and as a result, when two were sprung upon him for free, he accepted them all two hastily, failed to accomodate them within his team, and as a result, lost his perfect job.

Curbishley, on the other hand, made good signings upon his arrival in December, did know how to accomodate Tevez (if not Mascherano) and as a result is currently the manager of a team who showed great character to remain in the Premier League last season, have a first-rate chairman who wants the very best for the club, and are still improving.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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