Curbs: Let's concentrate on the football

Victorious Martin Jol described it is an 'amazing English game' but it was all double-Dutch to a dumbfounded Alan Curbishley, as he struggled to work out just how Hammers had turned three points into none by the time the final whistle blew against Tottenham Hotspur.

"If you score three goals you'd like to think you've got a chance of winning the game," declared the Hammers' boss after seeing first-ever Premiership strikes for Mark Noble and Carlos Tevez, allied to Bobby Zamora's late header, finally count for nothing. "And at 2-0 and 3-2, we badly needed to hold out for a three-pointer.

"We're going through every emotion right now because we haven't won for a long while and we'd got ourselves into winning positions in each half.

"But we were naïve and we didn't know how to close the game out and that's the second time that's happened since I've been here. We were beating Fulham 3-2 with a minute to go, too.

"When we came in with a two-goal interval lead over a team like Spurs, we just needed to get through the first 10 minutes of the second half without having any scares.

"We couldn't manage that, though, and gave away a penalty with a needless tackle. Spurs are a confident side - they're on a great run - and we didn't need to give them that lift or let them get themselves back into the game.

"And after we again got ourselves 3-2 ahead with just six minutes to go, we then made all the wrong decisions and panicked.

"Firstly, we lost two valuable points and then we lost all three and I think that's down to a lack of confidence and a lack of mental toughness. At 3-2 up, a mid-table team would've won that match with five minutes to go and not lost it 3-4. Yet again, we haven't had lift-off and that's difficult.

"The players' statistics will tell me that they've worked as hard as they possibly could've done but, perhaps, that's not the best thing for me because they should've already been working hard like that in our previous matches."

Certainly, that long-overdue effort and endeavour could not be faulted by the media masses, who have been all too anxious to highlight Hammers' on-field and off-pitch problems in recent weeks.

"I've got no problem with criticism of our performances and our results and I fully understand that," continued Curbs, who had awoken to yet more tabloid tales of trouble and trauma. "But some of the stuff that is coming out is sensationalised, even though the same things happen every week at every football club, while some of it isn't even true in the first place.

"We're a big club, we're in the bottom three, on the back foot and fair game for people to write anything about us at the moment. That's affecting us and while we're not hearing too much about the other 19 Premiership clubs at the moment, it seems to be one-way traffic as far as we're concerned and we've just got to get on with it.

"Negativity is following us around and if the results aren't bad enough, there's other stuff coming out day-by-day that just doesn't hit the papers at those other teams.

"I'm not saying that people skip off to America at other clubs and I didn't know about Anton Ferdinand's trip until yesterday," continued Curbs, defending his decision to select his England under-21 defender despite an unauthorised trip to the USA in mid-February.

"We've trained hard all week and I picked my team but it wasn't a situation where the player should've been dropped.

"I've briefly spoken to Anton about it and he's rightly apologised but it all happened between a two-week break and it wasn't life-threatening. The players were all told that they couldn't leave the country and Anton will be disciplined but that's the least of my worries and, as far as I'm concerned, today's result was far more damaging because we're still bottom of the table and have just dropped three desperately needed points.

"There are stories circulating that the players have never been disciplined but they're totally off the mark. In fact, I thought there might even be a story that they've been disciplined too much. Now that might've been true!

"We've changed the discipline structure since we've been here and I've had to hand out fines, which are heavier than they were before I arrived, but players get fined at every club.

"I only want to talk about football from now on and, hopefully, we can do that in the coming weeks," concluded Curbs insisting that neither the manager nor the players can give up hope of pulling off a great escape. "As I've said before, in terms of losing my job, I'm not immune to anything and nothing surprises me in football anymore.

"But I've got no inclination to do anything else other than to get on with things and get us out of trouble. I don't fear anything and we'll get on with it.

"There was a chance to get three points out there today and to close the gap on Charlton Athletic and Manchester City. After all, we've all got to catch the team that's fourth from bottom and although we've blown three points today we've got to keep going.

"Nobody else around us has given up the fight and neither can we."

by Steve Blowers