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Fulham, always the one to spring a surprise on their fans, announced the signing of Clint Dempsey late on Christmas Eve. Most journalists just pressed "send" to their sub-editors on a transfer that they knew was/had been happening for the past few days. However, that wasn't the surprise that Fulham were to spring. Much later, about 11pm, Fulham were "delighted" to announce that Alan Curbishley had been hired as the "First-Team Technical Director". What Ado we know?

Well, we all know about Curbishley's previous managerial history. He started at Charlton in 1991 as joint manager, before becoming the full-time manager during the 1995/96 close season. At Charlton, he managed a win percentage of 36.8% during his first, joint tenure, and a 38.5% win percentage during his second tenure. He also managed to win the First Division title, as well as take Charlton to a record-high 7th place position before being leaving the club at the end of his contract in 2006. 

He then joined West Ham, where he secured their immediate Premier League future after taking over in difficult circumstances in December 2006. He then lead, much like a Roy Hodgson turnaround, West Ham to a top 10 finish the next season. Controversy reigned over the rest of his time, with Curbishley claiming that players had been sold over his head, eventually forcing him to resign early in the season in 2008. After that, he sued for constructive dismissal, which he won. So, the players probably were sold over his head. He managed a 40.9% win percentage at West Ham. 

Since then, Curbishley has found work hard to come by: TV Punditry and a link every time a manager has been sacked which resulted in an amusing twitter account, "@AlansAvaliable" being set up. 

First Team Technical Director.

Well, what does a First Team Technical Director do? 

Wikipedia, actually quite a good source for the nitty-gritty of football terminology, has the definition of a technical director under the heading Director of Football: 

"In this case [as a technical director], the director of football may be sought by a board - or even manager - in order to provide advice or technical assistance on footballing or other aspects that are perceived as lacking or desired by the club. This may be the case where the manager is inexperienced or perceived as naive in a particular aspect, allowing the director to advise against potentially costly errors. This may also be the case where a club in a lesser league or lower division with ambitions to develop further and improve their league position seeks an experienced former manager or director from a more prominent league or club in order to use their experience to further the club. Such an example is that of Giovanni Trapattoni at Red Bull Salzburg or Sven-Goran Eriksson at Notts County.

In this case, however, the tag "director of football" may be dropped in order to prevent the "director" from undermining the present manager by his presence at the club with the person taking up a position such as with the youth academy perceived as subordinate to the manager.

Appointments in this case are often short term - for between 1/2 seasons - with the director imparting their advice and departing to another club." (

That makes it sound like two things: firstly, Curbishley is desperate to be back in football, and thus, is happy to sit in this role for a while until a job comes along- understandable, considering he's spoken in the past of how difficult it is to get a job once you are out of the loop (here). Secondly, Fulham are happy with Meulensteen but that they feel his lack of experience as a manager (he has not really managed, save a year at Brondby and a few days at Anzhi) could result in him making some rookie errors. Thus, they have brought in Curbishley to aid him- not to take over, but to simply be a soundboard in which Meulensteen can check things before making an error. Additionally, Curbishley has lots of experience, and has worked with players before- he's a good coach to have around on the training pitch. 

Chelsea currently have a first team technical director: Michael Emenalo. Chelsea's official website says that in his role as Technical Director, Emenalo "supports the work of the first team manager, leads the club's international and domestic scouting network and assists in driving the technical programmes of our academy and international youth network". Unofficially, he works very hard in the transfer market, and is seen as taking on that part of the Director of Football role. 

West Brom are best known for employing a technical director: indeed, they have done so since 2004. Dan Ashworth, now in charge of the FA's Youth Development, gave an interview in 2011 on his role and the interview summed up his role with the following: 

"Ashworth is still only 40 and surely still learning every day about a job which carries an impact into every corner of the Hawthorns.

He is part scout, recruitment officer, negotiator, deal-maker, deal-breaker, peace-maker, go-between and strategist.

He's possibly a skilful politician too, providing as he must a direct channel between the club's tough taskmaster and owner, Jeremy Peace, and the head coach's office, diluting any tensions while retaining the trust and confidence of both."

It is key to note though that West Brom do not have a CEO in a traditional sense, and thus Ashworth took on many of the roles that the CEO traditionally does. 

David Goldblatt sums up the role of the technical director in his book "The Football Book" in this picture- it looks like Fulham have gone for the Classic Continental, with the board retraining supreme control. This also suggests that Meulensteen is in charge of first-team affairs. 

Specifics on Curbishley as First Team Technical Director.

Well, what have Fulham said about him?

The official announcement didn't say much: Alan will "work with Rene Meulensteen", that they will both report to the CEO, that Meulensteen was "very happy" that Alan had joined because he provides additional support in the coaching team, something which Rene had asked for after Jol's departure. So, that would point towards the classic continental system that David Goldblatt looks at. 

Meulensteen then gave an interview to Sky Sports, which spread a lot more light on the situation. 

"I was something the club had been discussing even before I had joined Fulham, so that was always on the cards. We've been looking for the right sort of person and we are 100% convinced we have found that in appointing Alan Curbishley.

I'm going to be in charge of the running of the first team on a daily basis and Alan is just going to be another member of the first-team staff.

I'm delighted he's chosen to join us because to have a senior member like him on board with the vast experience he has in the Premier League gives me a great soundboard to bounce off from and get results and hopefully it gives us an even better chance of staying up in the Premier League.

He might have been out from a manager's point of view but he's clearly kept pace with what has happened in the Premier League with his appearances on TV.

When I spoke to him, you could tell he is right up to speed with what is happening in the Premier League.

I see it as a positive development at Fulham Football Club. We need to make sure we do what is best for Fulham and the progression of the football club and the appointment of Alan is definitely one of those things."

So, that would support the classic Technical Director role in which the club are using Curbishley as a soundboard and some experience for Meulensteen. 

Interesting appointment by Fulham, but one that, for the moment, fans will have to trust. So, fear not Fulham fans, Meulensteen is still in charge, Ali Mac still has overall control and Curbishley, probably, is part-soundboard, part-experience. This isn't Joe Kinnear. 

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