As would be reasonably expected, there is some anti-Curbishley sentiment on the various Addick message boards. In light of the achievements of the past twelve years, such criticism can sound disrespectful yet the club owes it to itself to consider the state of the team now and not merely in the context of the near-miracle that got us here. Many fans get bored of the 'plucky Charlton' tag and getting reminded of the weeds that once grew from where the East Stand now rises, and yet whilst those dark days in part define the club their memory shouldn't prevent the club from making tough decisions if progress is stalling.
In my opinion, a manager should be judged on whether the team progresses and improves over time in the context of whatever transfer budget, injury list and other constraints he has to confront. Since 1991/2 when Curbishley and Gritt took the helm, it would be hard to argue that the club did not make a reasonable progression season-by-season, perhaps only with the exception of 1994/5 when the club finished 15th and 2001/2 when we finished 14th after a creditable 9th place finish in 2000/1 (though the latter was probably the outlier, not the former). In my opinion, the greatest miracles performed by Curbs were 1991/2 (when we narrowly missed the play-offs) and 1995/6 (when we made them), given that the teams he put out regularly included such luminaries as Alex Dyer, Steve Gatting, Paul Bacon and Carl Leaburn. Indeed, in the warm glow of the 1998 play-off win, it was easy to forget that whilst it was driven by modern-day Charlton greats like Kinsella and Mendonca, the team that season was also built around the likes of Chapple, Mortimer, Balmer, Petterson, and Bowen. Somehow Kevin Lisbie remains a part of the current set-up but that is another story....
However, after four years of consolidation in the Premiership during which time crowds have increased to 27,000, and the overall profile of the club has increased greatly, is it acceptable to say the team is continuing to progress at a reasonable rate? Fans are entitled (since they pay their money to watch) to ask whether the Parker funds have been well-spent? They are entitled to ask why average players like Kishishev regularly get picked over more capable ones, and why the team overall seems stale, defensive and short of inspiration? We have received questionable value-for-money from some of the bigger signings (it is worth remembering we paid £4.75m for Jason Euell and £4m for Luke Young), though overall Curbs' transfer record is a good one (for every Euell, there's a Holland).
We owe it to Curbs in light of his loyalty, and the genuine miracles above, to assess the current progress of the club over a statistically significant period of time. Since Parker left, we have played 27 league games with a record as follows: P 27, W8, D4, L15, F30 A45 Pts 28. A record of barely a point per game would have represented relegation form during many recent seasons, but perhaps more worringly a goal difference of -15 over just 27 games suggests Curbs' defensiveness is actually not working. I am not suggesting a quick-fire decision on his position is warranted, but the truth is out there.
Some fans have rightly pointed out that there is no obvious replacement even if the club thought the unthinkable. Yet there was no obvious replacement for Lennie Lawrence in 1991 yet look where we are now. As Curbs has proved, it is only by being thrown into the deep end do you find out if managers can swim. By New Year we will have a full 38 games to assess the post-Parker record and there are currently few signs that the relegation form outlined above will have improved. And if, as this fan expects, we find ourselves uncomfortably close to the bottom three, that will be the time to either consider Curbs' position or to test his motivational and tactical qualities in the heat of a relegation battle.