Alan Curbishley has been installed as favourite to succeed Harry Redknapp as West Ham manager.
And the Charlton boss has been given a glowing reference by former Hammer Rio Ferdinand, who admitted he was stunned by Redknapp’s sudden departure from Upton Park.
But the Hammers would face a fight to secure one of the Premiership’s best young bosses, with Charlton coming out fighting this afternoon as speculation grew.
Redknapp and his assistant Frank Lampard parted company with the club today following talks with the West Ham board.
And Ferdinand, sold by Redknapp to Leeds for £18m earlier this season, said: ‘‘Alan Curbishley would be the right type of man for the job.
‘‘He believes in young players. If anyone has the credentials to do the job it is Alan. I just hope they get someone who is worthy of the job.’’
But Charlton hit back immediately, with their chief executive Peter Varney not mincing his words in attacking the credentials of the Hammers in terms of luring Curbishley across east London.
‘‘I can’t understand why anyone would think that Alan would want to make a move down the Premiership table,’’ Varney said.
‘‘He is under contract to Charlton. We have just enjoyed our best season for half a century and have done considerably better than West Ham.
‘‘Any objective comparison between the two clubs would surely suggest that his prospects are better here than picking up the pieces at Upton Park.’’
Ferdinand paid tribute to Redknapp’s work with his former club and suggested the Hammers would find it difficult to recover from his departure.
Ferdinand said: ‘‘It is disappointing. I owe Harry a lot. He and his staff gave me encouragement and I appreciate that.
‘‘It is a huge blow not only for Harry but for the young players he has brought through.
‘‘I thought he might go in a few years but to do it so suddenly is a surprise. No one knows the full details or the reasons why but I am sure he had his reasons.
‘‘It will be a blow to Joe Cole and the rest of the young boys. Harry really believes in a youth policy and gave so many youngsters their chance.’’
Ferdinand was asked if selling him may have played a part in Redknapp’s decision.
‘‘I don’t know if my move had much to do with it,’’ he said.
‘‘I don’t know how much he had to spend. Perhaps he thought he would get a big amount to spend and maybe he didn’t. No one knows, we can’t make any assumptions.’’
Ferdinand said he had been told of Redknapp’s decision by Hammers midfielder Frank Lampard.
‘‘Frank said he was gutted - he was part of the Hammers family.
‘‘But they all have to get on with it as a club now. For the sake of West Ham I hope it does not kickstart players going. They have to keep their best players.
‘‘It will be difficult because Harry was so good with all the young players. The guy blooded so many of them in the first team.
‘‘Youngsters came to the club because of Harry’s youth policy. They must get someone who is worthy of the job and he gives youth a chance. Hopefully the club won’t change too much.’’
Hammers defender Stuart Pearce, former caretaker-manager at Nottingham Forest, is another leading contender to replace Redknapp but today the England international spoke of his ‘‘state of shock’’ at Redknapp’s departure.
‘‘It will come as a total shock to all the players at the club,’’ Pearce told West Ham’s official website.
‘‘From a personal point of view he has been absolutely superb for me and I’m very disappointed that he’s leaving West Ham.
‘‘From West Ham’s point of view, let’s just say he’s left them with the strongest squad they’ve had for a number of years.
‘‘You’ve only got to look at the young talent that he’s left behind a midfield trio (Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick) and Rio’s (Ferdinand) just left for £18m.
‘‘He has done a hell of a lot for the club and he’ll be greatly missed by the club.
‘‘He has had the hump with results not going well and the win on Saturday (3-0 against Southampton which clinched Premiership survival) came as a big relief to him but I don’t know the ins and outs of what has gone on behind the scenes.’’
Former Hammer Clive Allen suggested a possible motivation for Redknapp’s departure was that he was not able to spend the money the Hammers had received from Leeds for Ferdinand.
‘‘You’d have to say that selling Rio Ferdinand played a major part. Harry didn’t want to sell him, it was a vast sum of money that they received and then I would have thought that Harry would have been wanting to re-invest that money,’’ he said.
‘‘That probably hasn’t happened as much as Harry would have liked.
‘‘The reasons will I’m sure come to light, but it is really surprising there is a bright future at West Ham, there are many young players developing and I’m sure Harry wanted to add to that and that hasn’t been forthcoming, and off the top of my head I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why.’’
Another Hammers old boy, Tony Cottee questioned whether the club would be able to find a suitable manager to fill the vacant post, but went on to tip Curbishley as a leading candidate.
He added: ‘‘If the club is going to take a change of direction then fine but who on earth do they appoint as manager, because apart from Lou Macari the club have always appointed someone connected to the club and the only person I could think of as an outstanding candidate would be Alan Curbishley.
‘‘But he’s done such a good job at Charlton I don’t know whether he would want to leave that club.’’
Cottee admitted he would not be ruling himself out of running for the vacancy at Upton Park despite boasting only an unsuccessful stint at Barnet so far in his managerial career.
He said: ‘‘Tony Cottee would always be available for the club, that’s for sure, but with what happened at Barnet recently I’m not quite sure whether I’m in a position to be involved in the job as yet.
‘‘But of course I’d love to go back to the club in some form or other, but I think it’d probably be a bit too early to go in as manager at the moment.’’
Cottee claimed it was possible Redknapp had fallen out with the Hammers’ board.
‘‘I know he’s got strong beliefs and if something’s happened that he’s not agreed with then I know he’s financially well-off enough to say ‘well that’s it, if you’re not going to back me and do it my way then I’ll leave and go somewhere else’.’’