Curbishley keen on 12-month break but Boro may come knocking earlier

Charlton's manager has called time on his career at The Valley and wants a sabbatical but a host of suitors will test his resolve. Jason Burt reports
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The Independent Football

Alan Curbishley is considering taking a year's break from management after leaving Charlton Athletic - but is likely to have his resolve tested by a number of suitors this summer.

His name remains on the shortlist for the England manager's job although Curbishley is regarded - and regards himself - as the outsider of the four and is unlikely to be appointed. Instead, if the Football Association turn to Steve McClaren later this week, Middlesbrough will look at Curbishley as a possible replacement.

Middlesbrough have protested that they have no contingency plan should McClaren leave, but it is understood that they have drawn up a list of names - Martin O'Neill, Paul Jewell, Mark Hughes and Hibernian manager, and former Boro player, Tony Mowbray. Curbishley will become a late addition to those and, because of his availability, would immediately be installed as favourite.

However, other clubs will monitor the situation. Because of his links as a player, even if he did not enjoy his time there, Curbishley would undoubtedly be considered by Aston Villa if, as many expect, David O'Leary is sacked. Newcastle United, who are still holding out for O'Neill, will undoubtedly discuss whether or not to make an approach. Curbishley, 48, appears keen to keep all his options open which is understandable after having spent 15 years at Charlton.

His departure is not wholly unexpected and Charlton have been considering for some time what to do should Curbishley move on. They have had an arrangement for some time that he could leave if the right job came up. Curbishley had one year left on his contract and was cool about the prospect of extending the deal.

He certainly wants the England job, even though the speculation surrounding it frustrated him and, before that, was attracted to Tottenham Hotspur before Jacques Santini was appointed. Curbishley lives close to their training ground in Chigwell, Essex, but was not interviewed. Previously he had been strongly linked to the Liverpool job and is believed to have held talks. Rafael Benitez was chosen instead.

Indeed, Curbishley has grown frustrated that leading clubs have tended to overlook him. In an interview with The Independent last season he stated that he may have stayed "too long". He also talked about becoming bored with watching football and how predictable it had become - and his annoyance at the reaction of Charlton fans who booed his team and had unrealistic expectations.

The goalkeeper Dean Kiely, now at Portsmouth, who played for Charlton for six years before falling out with Curbishley, hinted that a change was needed. "He was there for a long, long time and that was his strength but that also meant a bit of tiredness and staleness," Kiely said yesterday. "Now he has time to refresh himself and recharge his batteries." Charlton themselves, who believe they have fully backed Curbishley, especially this season, are in a quandary. They would like to appoint a young, up-and-coming manager and had discussed an approach to Luton Town's Mike Newell but are concerned that their supporters may demand a bigger, more established name, especially as the club have ambitious plans to expand The Valley. In any case, the post will be advertised this week with Charlton confident they will receive a number of high-calibre applicants.

Sources say nothing should be read into the presence of the former Milan coach Alberto Zaccheroni at Saturday's match even if the Italian is keen to find a job in England.

Curbishley, who ended his playing career as an elegant midfielder at Charlton in 1991, after starting his career at West Ham, will depart next Sunday, falling one short of Jimmy Seed's club record of 730 games and having been voted their greatest manager. He oversaw an extraordinary transformation of Charlton from a homeless club into one established in the Premiership with an impressive infrastructure. He said last year his legacy would be the remarkable rebuilding of the stadium and the sound footing he has given the club. There may be a move to rename one of the stands after him - but it will be down to someone else to try to take Charlton forward on the field.