Curbishley remains focused as rumours swirl

By NEIL TRAINIS THE prospect of becoming the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season did not drive Alan Curbishley to distraction on Saturday. Somewhat understandably all he wanted to talk about was football. Speculation that there might be

By NEIL TRAINIS

THE prospect of becoming the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season did not drive Alan Curbishley to distraction on Saturday.

Somewhat understandably all he wanted to talk about was football.

Speculation that there might be a managerial change at West Ham come Christmas meant that tension infused the air of the Upton Park press room, but after the match Curbishley preferred to concentrate on his club's victory over Wigan Athletic.


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He spoke enthusiastically about Dean Ashton's two goals in front of watching England coach Fabio Capello, the first of which revived memories of big, old-fashioned English centre forwards turning their markers and unleashing thunderous shots into the net.

"He hits the ball as hard as anyone I've ever seen and if the ball drops to someone in the box, you want it to be Dean Ashton because he always hits the target," Curbishley said, having seen Ashton leave Paul Scharner for dead with a sublime first touch before firing past Chris Kirkland.

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There was justifiable relief on Curbishley's part that his players had ground out victory despite being overrun for most of the second half by a Wigan outfit who, inspired by the Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios, deserved at least a point.

"We played ever so well in the first half and deserved a little bit more," Curbishley insisted. "We came out second half thinking 2-0 is sometimes a tricky score-line. Our main aim was to get off to a decent start but Wigan scored straight away and put us under a lot of pressure after that.

"We'll obviously take the three points. I was delighted with how we played in the first half but we'll look at the second half and Steve Bruce will be very similar. He'll wonder about his first half and think about the second."

In contrast to Wigan's impressive vitality, Mark Noble and Scott Parker were bypassed with alarming ease in midfield as the uncertainty surrounding Curbishley's position appeared to affect his players in the second period.

Their passing was poor, but they defended in numbers and their resolve was epitomised by striker Carlton Cole tracking back to clear an Amr Zaki header off the line as Wigan sniffed an equaliser.

"We didn't play as well as we did in the first half. Our passing wasn't good enough but our defending was great. I think Davenport and Upson [defended well], Carlton Cole [did] when he got back there and Greeny made a fantastic save," Curbishley said, referring to Robert Green's finger-tip save to deny Palacios.

West Ham looked jaded as the game wore on. Unfortunately for their manager, the conjecture surrounding his position still has plenty of life left in it.

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