West Ham United hope to announce today the capture of Alan Curbishley as their new manager following the sacking of Alan Pardew.
Curbishley and his agent, Phil Smith, had lengthy talks with Eggert Magnusson, the club's new Icelandic chairman, yesterday. Curbishley is understood to have played "hardball" during the negotiations, wanting various assurances from a chairman many feel panicked in sacking Pardew.
Curbishley was then left to consider whether he wants a job he turned down five years ago because it was "too claustrophobic".
That he wishes to return to the game is clear. In his newspaper column yesterday, he said: "I have to admit that watching Chelsea and Arsenal made me realise how much I miss the drama and theatre of Premiership football. I found myself caught up in it. The excitement of such matches is something that affects anybody in love with the game."
He also reiterated his love for the Hammers. "They are, after all, my club. I come from Canning Town, grew up as a trainee, became a first-team regular and sat at the feet of the incomparable Bobby Moore," he wrote."
In 2001, the docker's son rejected the chance to take over at Upton Park from Harry Redknapp. He later explained: "I felt it wasn't for me. It was a little bit too claustrophobic. When all the speculation was on, I realised my milkman and my postman were West Ham fans and when my wife went in B&Q to get something, she had 15 minutes of it from someone behind the till."
Curbishley has, however, missed the involvement during his six-month sabbatical and he is aware that few better options are likely to present themselves.
If Curbishley accepts the job, he starts with a daunting fixture. West Ham's next match is at home to Manchester United. At least Curbishley is well informed about the West Ham squad, he covered their 4-0 defeat at Bolton for television. He also already has a man in the camp. Keith Peacock, Curbishley's assistant manager at Charlton, has been filling a similar role at West Ham. Curbishley can be expected to keep Peacock in the post and he is also likely to bring in Mervyn Day, a former West Ham team-mate and his first-team coach at The Valley.
Curbishley, 49, played for West Ham from 1975-1979. He was a stylish midfielder but had to compete with Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire. This led to him joining Birmingham City for £225,000, West Ham's most expensive sale at that time. Four seasons later, he made the trip across the Second City to Aston Villa before moving to Charlton. He wound down his playing career with three seasons at Brighton before returning to Charlton in 1990, becoming joint player-manager with Steve Gritt. Once Gritt left, Curbishley was instrumental in transforming Charlton into an established Premiership club.
One early test at West Ham will be how he deals with Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. But Kia Joorabchian, the Iranian businessman who owns the rights to the players, says Curbishley would be a superb choice. "Carlos and Javier would be pleased if Curbs came in," he said.