EPL World

Charlton Clear For Curbishley Return?

Appointing a manager from the third tier of Belgian football was never going to be a winning strategy as Championship side Charlton are now discovering. When the unknown Karel Fraeye arrived at the Valley in late October few gave him any chance of succeeding and in the end that proved to be the correct. With little coaching experience to speak of and no knowledge of the club or indeed how football is played in England, Fraeye was a strange appointment to say the least by Roland Duchetelet. But now the Belgian owner is on the look out for yet another manager after dismissing Fraeye following two wins in fourteen matches. The 38 year old leaves Charlton second bottom of the Championship, winless in their last ten games in all competitions and with the worst goal difference in the league following a humiliating 5-0 thrashing by Huddersfield on Tuesday. First team coaches Wim de Corte and Jason Euell have taken control of first team duties until Duchetelet can find and hire the next head coach (his sixth in two years) of the bewildered club.

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Never likely to succeed – Karel Fraeye (Image from Getty)

It’s a dramatic fall from grace for a side who once were riding high in the Premier League under Alan Curbishley challenging for a European spot. For over a decade and a half, the Englishman poured his heart and sole into the club building them up from the wilderness into a reputable and formidable Premier League opponent. His sides featured the likes of Scott Parker, Richard Rufus, Matt Holland, Luke Young and Mark Kinsella to name a few but all promoted Curbishley’s intense work ethic giving their all in every match they played. That resulted in success for the club and at one stage in the 2003-2004 season looked destined to secure a Champions League spot only to falter at the end due to having a smaller squad than their rivals. Throughout the years, Curbishley is rumoured to have turned down several potential suitors including Liverpool to stay at the Valley as he believed strongly in what he was building which in turn made his departure at the end of the 2006 season all the more emotional. In his final match at the Valley after managing the club for 728 games (his last appearance was away to Man United to make it 729), Curbishley received a standing ovation from the home support that lasted over 20 minutes. he weeped openly as he headed down the tunnel and out of the club he loved.

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Former Charlton star Scott Parker (Image from AP)

His departure signalled the demise of Charlton and the chain events which have led to today. Relegation form the Premier League happened after only one season then slipped into League One two years later. They did manage to bounce back the following year under former player Chris Powell winning the division with a record 101 points tally. Things started to look up when Belgian businessman Duchatelet completed his takeover of the club in early 2014, promising to take the club back to the big time. Players were brought in from Standard Liege, another one of Duchatelet’s clubs to strengthen their cause sparking optimism from the fans. However it proved to be a false dawn with Duchatelet sacking Powell due to suggestions that Powell was unwilling to entertain the owners guidance around team selection. What followed has been troublesome time for the club with three unknown coaches hired and fired (Jose Riga, Bob Peeters and Guy Luzon) in quick succession before Fraeye was brought in. With four failed coaches, the fans have lost patience with their foreign owner and held protest in recent weeks at the Valley against how he is running their club.

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Big decision for Duchatelet who has had his fair share of managers (Image from Getty)

With the fans firmly against him and the club struggling badly, Duchatelet needs to bring in a coach who can help to bridge the divide and save his investment. Curbishley, who has been out of work for some time is the ideal appointment given his history with the club, the fans admiration of him and his ability to build sides capable of winning football matches. Curbishley spoke in the past of his interest in returning to the Valley when the club sacked Peeters so approaching him now would likely be met with positivity. Despite being firmly in the relegation zone, the game between the relegation zone and mid table is still only 12 points so its plausible that Charlton can escape the drop especially with the right appointment and a few specific signings. For the fans of the club, the hope is that Duchatelet gets the message soon and reaches out to Curbishley rather than looking for yet another untested foreign coach to fill the role. Curbishley is only a call away, however whether the owner picks up the phone is ultimately his decision.

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