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Sometimes it can seem that any change is better than the status quo.

Alan Pardew was sacked this week after losing five of his last six games as West Ham manager and replaced by Alan Curbishley, a man who lost five of his last six games before quitting as Charlton manager at the end of last season.

Curbishley even begins his new job on Sunday against Manchester United, his last opponents with Charlton. Vive la révolution.

That is slightly unfair, for Curbishley’s achievement in establishing Charlton as a top-flight club was remarkable – and their struggles this season are indicative of his influence. Yet Pardew also had a record of which to be proud, not merely with West Ham, but also with Reading.

Pardew remained popular with fans to the end, largely because of the belief that his project had been derailed by forces beyond his control; the injury to striker Dean Ashton, the unexpected arrival of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, and the destabilising takeover talk.

Some might argue that he could have integrated the two Argentines better, but it is hard to imagine any other manager has ever been sacked on the basis of results with a poll showing that 65 per cent of fans wanting him to stay.

Eggert Magnusson, the new chairman, spoke this week of the need to arrest the declining confidence at the club, and in believing the way to do that was to change the manager he was following modern practice.

It is only recently that the phrase “to lose the dressing-room” has passed into common parlance, but it is generally agreed that once a manager has done so, it is very difficult to regain forward momentum.

It is possible, but when relegation presents such a financial blow as it does now – particularly given next season’s lucrative Premiership TV rights deal – it is understandable that the new owners should seek change.

Perhaps it is true that, as the former Tottenham and Barcelona forward Steve Archibald said, team spirit is a myth that exists only when a team is winning.

Certainly the idea that Pardew’s West Ham were a side built on togetherness – usually extrapolated as an old-fashioned virtue possible only in a side of largely English players – does not stand up in retrospect.

Players are said to have mocked the departing Pardew at this year’s Christmas party, there is known to be dissatisfaction over the way he presented goalkeeper Roy Carroll’s treatment for alleged addiction problems, while captain Nigel Reo-Coker’s discontent was apparent as early as April.

Perhaps without other distractions, Pardew would have dealt more effectively with those issues; but perhaps not.

Nevertheless, he leaves with his reputation largely intact, perhaps even enhanced by the dignity with which, in public at least, he has conducted himself over the past months.

If West Ham are relegated, the blame will be attached not to him, but to circumstance and the new owners.

Curbishley is popular at Upton Park as a boyhood fan and a former player, but he will not be granted an extended honeymoon.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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