ALAN CURBISHLEY’S love affair with The Valley goes back to when he sold badges at a Who concert there as a 16-year-old.
His brother Bill has since 1972 managed the iconic British rock band, who played gigs and festivals at the stadium.
But today the legendary former Charlton boss will be honoured as the club open The Alan Curbishley Stand at the League One season opener against Sheffield Wednesday.
And ironically the club’s Danish owner Thomas Sandgaard, a part-time rock guitarist, will treat him and Addicks faithful to an on-pitch rendition of Valley Floyd Road at 5.15pm.
He has also released a song called Addicks to Victory.
Curbs, 63, told SunSport: “Charlton supporters always told me about the so-called record 75,031 Valley crowd when Aston Villa visited in 1938 and 70,000 gates in the 1950s.
“But I always had a stock answer – the biggest crowd was when The Who played there in May 1974 and attracted 88,000. I know because I was there!
“Bill had been managing the band for a couple of years and got me, my younger brother Paul and a friend to make badges and sell them at the concert.
“We had a badge-making machine and, on the front of each one, was a photo of The Who. We sold them for 20p a pop.
“The Who were at the height of their powers and flying. They had just released Who’s Next, their biggest album, and Quadrophenia.
“I remember having to keep running back to a room inside The Valley where we put our machine to make more badges.
“Fans put up tents in nearby gardens and spent the night before there.
“Loads jumped fences and got in for free and the entrance gates were knocked down.
“The old Greater London Council flew a helicopter overhead and calculated 88,000 people rammed in and the event promoters got fined as it was over capacity.
“The big old East Bank – which is where the stand named after me sits – had 46,000 that night. It’s one of my most vivid childhood memories.”
The Who, incidentally, set a world record as the loudest band when they played at The Valley again in 1976 – recording 76,000 watts at 120 decibels – so Sandgaard will have his work cut out to beat that!
Curbishley is best remembered for his 15 years in charge of Charlton from 1991 to 2006 – where he won promotion twice to the Premier League and established the club in the top flight. And he had two spells as a player, giving him a total 19 years at the club.
And in 2004 he almost got Charlton into the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – but the Addicks sold star player Scott Parker to Chelsea for £10million during the January window.
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Curbs said: “We beat Chelsea 4-2 on Boxing Day and were fourth. They made a bid the next day. Had we kept Scott that season, we’d have got into Europe because we were a good side. We ended seventh, seven points behind the top four.”
The Londoner is by far the most successful Addicks manager in the modern era and the club have floundered since they parted company with him in 2006 – getting relegated in their first season after his departure and yo-yoing between the Championship and League One since.
Curbishley said: “When Thomas called about the stand, I was stunned because most people get a stand named after them when they’ve died.
“I spoke to Richard Bevan at the LMA and we were thinking of managers who have had stands named after them.
“We could only think of Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, Bill Shankly, Kenny Dalglish, Graham Taylor and Don Revie. I know Billy Bonds had one named after him at West Ham but that was more for his playing days.
“I don’t get too emotional but I might on Saturday.”
Curbishley – who had Charlton punching above their weight for years and consistently producing home-grown stars such as Parker and Lee Bowyer – has been out of management since resigning from West Ham in 2008.
Even during his two years with the Hammers, he helped save them from relegation against the odds after taking over from Alan Pardew in 2006 and then guided them to 10th despite being hampered by a string of injuries to star players.
This is a manager who was on Liverpool’s radar before they appointed Rafa Benitez and got interviewed for the England job when the FA opted for Steve McClaren.
He said: “I’m only 63 and can most definitely do a good job in the Premier League but I don’t think anyone will give me a chance because I’ve been out of the game too long.
“I did get offered Championship jobs. I got offered Hull with 10 games left, Wolves with 12 matches to go but I didn’t want that, I wanted a fresh start – at least go in during pre-season.
KING OF THE VALLEY
His boss record at Charlton
Wins 274 (38%)
Draws 187 (26%)
Defeats 259 (36%)
“Suddenly it drifted longer and I didn’t get a sniff. New owners, new chief executives come along and you’re out of it – you’re forgotten.” I ask him why he feels one of the big European-challenging Premier League clubs did not take a punt on him when he was at the height of his powers.
He said: “Look at Sean Dyche – a great British manager at Burnley. He never gets mentioned for the big jobs. He’s in a similar position to where I was.
“The only major ones who have been elevated in recent years were David Moyes at Manchester United and Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. Obviously, Roy Hodgson went to Liverpool too but he had already been managing across Europe.
“It wasn’t long ago we had huge concerns there was not enough English talent coming through at Premier League clubs but that has now changed with the likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
He took Southampton from League One to the Premier League, the journey Charlton wanted to make. He has been around this league, he understands it, he’s experienced.
I think Charlton have a solid owner who has the club at heart, which is what it needs after years of problems at the top. But everyone understands success won’t be instant.
HIS DEFINING MOMENT
Had we not beaten Sunderland in the 1998 play-off final, Premier League clubs were lining up that summer to take our players. Although we were relegated in our first season, we had a solid platform so didn’t have to lose all our players and came straight back up.
WHY HE LEFT
I had a year left on my deal and was happy to leave sorting a new one until nearer the time it expired. I met chairman Richard Murray to discuss new signings and the conversation quickly moved to how can we offer three-year deals to players when you only have one left on yours? I understood and the meeting finished with me leaving.
With Thomas here, the expectation is that the club will go straight up.
With so many clubs reining in their finances because of Covid, there is a good opportunity here. With Charlton being in London, they are ideally placed to attract players and use the loan market well.
“Hopefully, with the success of the England team in recent years under Gareth Southgate and English coaches, we’ll see more up-and-coming British managers get a chance.”
Curbishley believes clubs should look at appointing mentors for first-time managers – a role he undertook at Fulham briefly for Rene Meulensteen and later Kit Symons.
He said: “When Martin Jol left, all the staff departed too – leaving Rene on his own and I got asked if Ray Wilkins and I could go in and be a mentor.
“It was perfect. It wasn’t me saying, ‘Rene, you should be doing this.’ It was more, ‘have you thought about this?’ or ‘I’ve watched three games and wondered if you might consider this?’
“There’s definitely a role there for experienced ex-managers. The LMA has been promoting the idea of getting an experienced man around clubs – but some chairmen see it as a sign of weakness, which it absolutely isn’t.
“It’s not about controlling things but giving advice, suggestions, a second opinion– even if it’s just a phone call.”
One former rookie manager who asked for tips was Paolo Di Canio, who he signed for Charlton from West Ham.
He said: “Paolo had just taken the Sunderland job and I met him in Hong Kong at a reception for the Premier League Asia Cup. He asked if I had advice.
“I told him, ‘Paolo, there’s an old saying in England that you count to 10 before you say anything. My advice to you is count to 20!’ I don’t think Di Canio ever heeded it!”
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