Charlton Athletic 0 Blackburn Rovers 2: Curbishley leaves Valley of tears

Charlton fluff manager's exit line as 15-year reign ends on a low note
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As send-offs go, this was very much The Valley rather than Valhalla. It was announced over the public-address system before kick-off that the Charlton Athletic manager will leave the club at the end of the season, but far from a glorious finale, Alan Curbishley's final game at The Valley was a tedious affair that did little but advance Blackburn Rovers' chances of a return to European competition next season.

There was even a gentle murmur of boos at a sustained spell of Blackburn possession a quarter of an hour from time, but by the time Curbishley took his ovation on the pitch after the final whistle, there was a willingness to celebrate what has been a highly successful 15 years. He will fall one short of Jimmy Seed's club record of 730 games in charge, but it was Curbishley who was voted Charlton's greatest-ever manager during centenary celebrations last year.

The decision was made at a lengthy meeting on Friday afternoon, and the players were informed 15 minutes before kick-off, which Curbishley acknowledged might explain the flat performance. "I've been thinking about my future since the start of season," said Curbishley, whose contract was due to expire at the end of next season.

"We just felt it was time not to extend my contract. Richard [Murray, the Charlton deputy chairman] felt if it was not being extended the commitment might not be there and he's right.

"We had a couple of discussions, and it came to a head yesterday [Friday]. It's an amicable situation. Most managers get booted out of the back door; I got clapped out of the front door. We realised the marriage was going to break up but we remain the best of friends."

He insisted the speculation linking him with the England job had not been a factor, even claiming he had never really been in the race. "I need a change," he said. "I need a break. I've done 15 years without a break and I need time out to freshen up. They need someone to come in and take it up again, to walk around the training ground with a spring in his step."

Beside the emotion of his parting, the game will fade into insignificance, which from Charlton's point of view is probably just as well. "It was important that we didn't lose our focus," said the Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes. "We couldn't allow the celebration of Alan's time here to affect our concentration."

It was rather Charlton's that was wanting, and they fell behind after 43 minutes, their defence watching as a long throw from Morten Gamst Pedersen looped to midfielder Steven Reid, who nodded in from close range. They wrapped the game up 20 minutes into the second half, Craig Bellamy having a swing and a miss at a cross from the on-loan Florent Sinama-Pongolle that cannoned off Chris Powell's knee and over his own line. They are now two points clear of Newcastle United in sixth, and will take the final Uefa Cup qualification spot if they manage two points from their final two games.

"If we'd won the game everything would have been as it should have been," Curbishley said, but late-season failings have long been his bêtes noire. Even yesterday amid the talk of building the club up after its return to The Valley, he spoke of missed opportunities. History will remember Curbishley's contribution to Charlton fondly and the ovation was richly deserved. Only the game disappointed: a fireship to the kingdom of the gods this was not.

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