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Sep 3, 2008

Fan pressure to blame for Curbs' exit

So as the future of Kevin Keegan at Newcastle remains unresolved, West Ham boss Alan Curbishley has decided enough is enough at Upton Park and jumped before he was pushed.

Interesting that in Keegan's case the fans are behind him in his battle with board, while in East London it is they who have hastened their manager's departure.

And somewhat unfairly too. The club have made a decent start to the season with wins over Wigan and Blackburn in the Premier League elevating them to 5th position and they looked more than capable of improving on their 10th place finish from last season.

Yet it was the 3-0 defeat to Man City and the laboured victory over League Two side Macclesfield Town in the Carling Cup that prompted the calls of 'You're getting sacked in the morning' from the Hammers' faithful and Curbishley has never been completely secure in his position, despite saving the club from relegation in his first season.

Despair over the manager's dull style of football seems at the root of the fans' displeasure, although it is a far cry from the kind of tactics that saw the Hammers flirt with the drop under Alan Pardew in 2006/07. You would think that 10th place in his first full season in charge would merit some praise from the terraces given their recent struggles, but it has not been enough to placate an ambitious set of supporters.

Also criticised for his man-management, Curbishley was reported to have had a bust-up with captain Lucas Neill after the win over Blackburn. Neill had supposedly told his boss that the players had kept him in a job with the win and his relationship with his players has appeared strained in recent weeks.

Clashing with the board over transfers didn't help his situation either. Anton Ferdinand, a player Curbishley would have wanted to keep despite his past indiscretions, was sold to Sunderland against his wishes and the final straw seems to have been the sale of George McCartney to Roy Keane's side on deadline day.

Curbishley had already stated that no more players would be leaving, so the deal undermined his position beyond belief, and left him with no chance to recruit a replacement. Not to mention McCartney had been one of the mainstays of his side from 2007/08 where he played every single game in the Hammers' League campaign.

With such instability over players already at the club, it comes as no surprise that Curbishley walked. Without the backing to bring in new players, barring a £5million outlay on Valon Behrami, the club have only themselves to blame for his departure and, although it may please the fans, Curbishley's exit can only add to West Ham's woes.

Having been linked with Croatia coach Slaven Bilic since Curbishley's unpopularity came to light, the club better hope that they can persuade their former defender to return to Upton Park. It could be good news for England, who face the Croats next Wednesday, but Bilic certainly won't tolerate the kind of treatment that the board, or the fans, have forced upon Curbishley.

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