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Thursday 31 January 2013

Window shopping: Alan Curbishley on January transfers

Former West Ham and Charlton manager reveals how clubs get their targets in January

  • Alan Curbishley signed Lucas Neill for West Ham from Blackburn in 2007

  • Curbishley lost Scott Parker to Chelsea and could not buy an immediate replacement

  • Curbishley hailed the impact his loan signing of Jorge Coasta had for Charlton

The January transfer window will close for business at 11pm tonight, with clubs having the last chance to tweak their playing staff for the Barclays Premier League run-in.

As the window reaches its climax, we speak to former Charlton Athletic and West Ham United manager Alan Curbishley about the highs and lows of getting business completed in January.

As a manager, do you look forward to or dread the January transfer window?
It depends what position you are in. If you are at the bottom and you desperately want bring in players, you can’t wait for it to open. If you are a team with assets, you don’t want it to open because you know that you are vulnerable. You don't want the phone to ring and it can be a bad time.

How difficult is signing a player in January rather than in the summer? Why is it different?
It's only a month so that ups the pressure because it's so difficult to complete a transfer. It can take longer than two weeks. Then there's the added problem of a club saying they want to let their player go but only if they can bring someone in. Then it becomes like the housing market, you are caught in a chain and you need someone to end it.

"If you're at the bottom, you can’t wait for the window to open"
Alan Curbishley

That's why it is so pressurised and that's why a lot of managers and clubs don't like to get involved in this month.

What makes a manager delve into the transfer market in the winter?
To improve your chances. You could be in the Championship going for promotion and you buy someone to get you up or into the play-off positions.  If you are in the bottom five or six in the Barclays Premier League, the pressure is on not to go down so it's your last chance to do anything.

I've sat on both sides. I’ve been fourth in the Premier League coming to the end of January and I lost my best player, Scott Parker, to Chelsea, which we never wanted. I couldn't spend any of the money because it came in so late. There was a year at West Ham when we were third from bottom and I had to bring some players in so I couldn't wait for it to open up.

You ended up surviving relegation after bringing in those players such as Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson and Luis Boa Morte at West Ham during January 2007, how decisive were those signings?
I was unfortunate because a lot of them got injured early on once I signed them! I wanted to fatten the squad up and give it more experience. The players we had were inexperienced in matches where we were behind. They had won promotion and had a fantastic first year in the Premier League and hadn’t gone four of five matches without winning. When I got to West Ham they had lost eight matches in a row. So I needed to bring in players not affected by that. The signings made the squad more competitive. By the end of the season, nine of the team that kept us up had been there all the time. Once the competition came in it livened the squad up.

Is doing deals in January risky?
Yes. Most clubs are buying to get out of trouble and if they do, they only find the players that clubs want to let go. A lot of the managers will try to take loans which take the risk element out of it.

"Don't go for players that are going to be hard to get hold of"
Alan Curbishley

At Charlton, I took the Portugal captain Jorge Costa from Porto in December 2011 and it helped us stay up and finish in a decent position but we weren't committed to a long-term deal. It worked out well for everybody. He kept us up. He was vastly experienced, a top centre-half and I was desperate for that.

Do you have to be prepared to make signings very quickly, just in case there are late/unexpected bids for one of your players?
It's like a domino effect. If you have got someone interested one of your players that you don’t want to leave, then you certainly have to be on the lookout for a replacement.  If you are desperate for a player and you get a yes from his club, you have got to get it done and get it done quickly before someone else jumps in. If it becomes public, it may nudge someone else to get in the market.

Does your scouting for a player differ if you are signing in January?
The big thing about this month is whispers and rumours. You hear that perhaps a player is available because a club has said yes to someone else and as you have heard that they are willing to let him go, you want to get involved. What you do is pick players that you think you can get. It's no good going for players that are going to be hard work to get hold of. You can do that in the summer, because it’s a longer time span and you are prepared that it might take a month or two to get that player out. In this window, once a club says no, you move on.

Is one of the most important things the player's ability to hit the ground running?
It's got to be someone who has been at the level and experienced in the Premier League. You know what you are looking for and in what position. You normally have two or three different names for each position and hopefully you will get one of them. What you are looking for, mainly, is that they want to come to your club.

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Key Points

  • Alan Curbishley on how transfers are completed in January
  • Curbishley is a former manager of Charlton and West Ham
  • Barclays Premier League transfer window closes on Thursday night