Curbishley in line to replace Pardew after shock sacking

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The West Ham United board were locked in talks last night drawing up a shortlist to replace Alan Pardew, who was sacked as manager at a meeting yesterday morning.

The clear frontrunner for the post is Alan Curbishley and it is understood that a tentative approach has already been made to the former Charlton Athletic manager. A more formal approach is expected to be made later today. Sources close to West Ham confirmed last night that Curbishley was their No 1 target and that it is hoped the 49-year-old may be in place for Sunday's home match against Manchester United.

However, the process may take some time especially as West Ham are understood to be considering other names and Curbishley will want clear guarantees before he accepts the post at his former club.

Pardew was dismissed by West Ham's new chairman, Eggert Magnusson, after three years in charge and just a week after the Icelander, who took control last Monday, said that he had "full confidence" in him. Pardew had three years left on his contract. He is likely to take a short break from football but is keen on a return to management as is being strongly linked with taking over at Charlton Athletic, one of his former clubs, and the club that Curbishley left last May after 16 years in charge. Another possibility is another of Pardew's former clubs, Crystal Palace, who are continuing to struggle in the Championship under Peter Taylor.

Pardew, regarded as one of the country's brightest young managers, was said to be in a state of shock yesterday after being called into a meeting with Magnusson following the 4-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers at the weekend. Despite appearing to back the manager following the £108m takeover Magnusson has been disillusioned by a run of five defeats in six matches and, more specifically, the poverty of West Ham's last three performances and the lack of motivation and fight from the players.

"Alan has made an important contribution since joining in September 2003 but this season's results have been disappointing," West Ham said in a statement. "Chairman Eggert Magnusson and the board feel it is the right time to make a change in the club's best interests... The search for a successor is now under way in order that a new manager can be in place ahead of the January transfer window."

Substantial funds will be made available but West Ham are concerned that, given their plight and their 18th place in the Premiership, players are unlikely to want to move to Upton Park. The £10m deal for Chelsea's Shaun Wright-Phillips is already understood to be in jeopardy. Magnusson also had grave concerns over whether he could trust Pardew with the transfer funds. For now the first-team coach Kevin Keen will take temporary charge but West Ham hope to appoint Curbishley, who played for the club between 1975 and 1979, before the weekend.

Curbishley is a free agent after seeing out the terms of his departure from Charlton and fits the bill of the proven safe pair of hands that Magnusson, who will be accused of panicking, wants. The chairman is also apparently keen on appointing a British, or British-style, manager.

Curbishley's agent, Phil Smith, said last night: "I have not heard anything at this point. But I can't say what will happen in the next 24, 48 or 72 hours. There has been no discussion with West Ham and if or when there is an approach we will deal with it." Curbishley has turned down an approach from West Ham in the past, saying it was the "wrong time" , but is expected to grasp the opportunity.

The new owners have made contingency plans in the event of relegation but the consortium's business plan was targeted to West Ham remaining in the top flight and taking advantage of the new Premier League TV rights deal that comes on stream next season.

Pardew himself said he left the club feeling proud of his achievements. "When I took the helm they were in the Championship and struggling to find direction," he said in a statement. "In two consecutive seasons we qualified for the play-offs, ultimately achieving the Premiership status the club so richly deserve.

"I am also proud of our first season back in the top flight in which we finished ninth and came so close to winning the FA Cup. The supporters have stood by me... I am proud most of all of the players."

Much of the supporters' anger is likely to turn on the West Ham players who have underperformed this season. Many believe they have let Pardew down, especially as he has shown great faith in his young team.

The League Managers' Association chief executive John Barnwell said he believed Pardew had been a "victim of his own success".

Irons man Curbishley has West Ham in his blood

* Born: 8 November 1957.

* Aug 1973: Joins West Ham.

* July 1979: Joins Birmingham.

* 1984: Moves to Aston Villa and then to Charlton.

* Jul 1987: Three-year stint at Brighton.

* Jul 1990: Becomes Charlton player-coach under Lennie Lawrence.

* Jul 1991: Takes over as joint manager, with Steve Gritt, becoming sole manager in 1995.

* May 1998: Charlton promoted to Premiership.

* May 1999: Relegated.

* May 2000: First Division champions.

* May 2006: Leaves Charlton.