Thanks for the Memories
Well it was a day we knew would eventually come, and although it still came as a bit of a shock, my first emotions were gratitude for what has been achieved, then a sense of excitement that a new chapter is about to be opened in our proud history.
To have turned a struggling club without a stadium into a stable Premiership outfit is an incredible achievement that may never be matched. Charlton fans are not used to turnover at the managerial level, and Steve Gritt aside, the bulk of my supporting years have seen just two men at the helm. Hence it is not surprising that it feels a little numb.
Curbs performed his miracles with the consistent support of a fantastic Board who now have a hugely important decision to make, and I trust them to make the right one. Back in 1991, the decision to appoint Curbishley and Gritt was borne mainly out of necessity, and whilst clearly a risk then too, to be honest the club had little to lose because it had very little to begin with. Today's Charlton, thanks of course to Curbishley, are in pretty good shape and hence the risks are commensurately higher. Having said that, I have stated before that I am ready to embrace uncertainty, and to quote a former US President, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
It would be interesting to know the full story behind his decision. I simply don't believe he suddenly sprung it upon Richard Murray on Friday, and his recent implicit comments in interviews were clearly a ruse to prepare the fans for today's announcement.
I had always been wary of the idea that Curbs would effectively get an open-ended contract until only he decided it was time to move on. In my view, our performances this season have not been acceptable and it would be reassuring to think that Murray at least hinted as much to him, without threatening the unthinkable. By leaving now, albeit at the end of an anti-climatic season, Curbs can hold his head up high, the fans had their chance to say thanks and the new manager has something to work with. It's 'win-win' all round. Leaving mid-season to join another club would have led to resentment and he didn't deserve that.
Watching another somnolent performance, it is near-impossible to escape the conclusion that Curbs has indeed taken us as far as he can, and credit to him for realising it also. It is vital that a new manager be appointed as quickly as possible because there is a vital restructuring job to be done in the summer. Several players have been in the comfort zone for too long under Curbs, and it's about time some of them were told the future of the club does not lay at their feet any longer.
I have it on fairly good authority that Curbs will be the next Newcastle boss, and he deserves the chance to take on a club with greater resources and a more passionate fanbase. The England job would have been a step too far at this stage but if he succeeds elsewhere, he will find the media more supportive of his claims.
In my view there is no shortage of interesting potential candidates, particularly young ambitious managers threatening to perform their own miracles at clubs that Charlton used to consider its peers. Examples would include Mike Newell, Gary Johnson, Phil Parkinson, Martin Allen, Adrian Boothroyd, Kevin Blackwell, Steve Tilson and Billy Davies.
Personally I think the club should try to do whatever it takes to get Steve Coppell or Paul Jewell to the Valley, but both are backed by wealthy Chairmen that can probably out-negotiate us. Some interesting out-of-work options would include Mick McCarthy and Alex McLeish. I would not be supportive of the appointment of the likes of George Burley, Peter Taylor or Glenn Hoddle whose records are flawed, and whose hunger for the challenge would be questionable at best. The least appropriate type of appointment would be someone like George Graham unless appointed as mentor of one of the young coaches listed above.
However the most realistic and appropriate candidate may be plying his trade just a few miles down the road at Crystal Palace - should he fail to win the play-offs, I would be very comfortable with the appointment of Iain Dowie. He combines passion and intelligence, as well as a good record of performing with limited resources. Nigel Worthington falls into the same category, and his teams play great football.
In short, there is a rich pool of interesting candidates and I am excited about the future. I'm surprised that an intelligent man like Richard Murray would have publicly suggested so early that they are not considering a foreign manager given the success that most have achieved in this country. There are risks of course, but as Spurs fans will tell you, for every Christian Gross, there is a Martin Jol.
But before we think about the future, it's only appropriate to say 'thank you Curbs' for a wonderful fifteen years that made me so proud to say I'm a Charlton fan. That perhaps is the single greatest achievement of an honest, decent and successful man.