FEATURE: Friendship the key to Colin West and Keith Curle's managerial partnership

Colin West gives out instructions to Jack Bridge (Pictures: Pete Norton)
Colin West gives out instructions to Jack Bridge (Pictures: Pete Norton)

Everybody needs good neighbours... and it has certainly paid dividends for Cobblers managerial pair Colin West and Keith Curle.

Respected opponents of each other in their playing days, fate would later throw the duo together as they ended up living a few doors apart in Sheffield.

Keith Curle and Colin West

Keith Curle and Colin West

At the time, West was assistant boss to Chris Turner at Sheffield Wednesday, while Curle was running the show at Mansfield Town, and the pair struck up a friendship.

"We played against each other when we were players," said West, who enjoyed a long professional career, playing as a striker for the likes of Sunderland, Watford, Rangers, West Bromwich Albion and Leyton Orient, even getting in a couple of loan games for the Cobblers in 1987.

"I was at Sheffield Wednesday as the assistant manager, and Keith was the manager at Mansfield, and we lived virtually next door to each other.

"We obviously bumped into each other quite a lot, knew each other from our playing days, and spoke to each other about the football side of things.

Colin West

Colin West

"We both had similar philosophies of how we wanted to play, how we wanted our teams to play, and we struck up a really good friendship."

Although in work at the time, both were well aware of the unpredictable nature of football life, and they made something of a pledge for the future.

"We always kept in touch, and Keith said to me if ever he got a managerial job, or if I did, then we would take each other as well," said West, who had spells as assistant to Turner at Hartlepool and Stockport County as well as the Owls, and also enjoyed coaching roles at Millwall and Southend United.

"And in fairness, when he got the job at Notts County (in 2012) he struck to his word and rang me up to join him.

Colin West

Colin West

"We get on well, we know how each other's moods are going, and it has worked well."

Prior to teaming up at Meadow Lane, West had been out of work having left his assistant boss role at Hartlepool in 2010, and he jumped at the chance to join Curle at the Magpies.

It proved to be a fairly short-lived partnership initially though, as Curle lost his job as County boss after just one year in charge.

It wasn't long before the pair were back together in the dugout though, as when Curle got the job as manager of Carlisle United in 2014, he took West on as his assistant.

Colin West

Colin West

They spent three seasons together at Brunton Park before leaving the club last summer at the end of their contracts.

Curle felt he wanted a new challenge, and he didn't have to wait too long as the Cobblers came calling at the end of September following the sacking of Dean Austin.

Once again, Curle and West came as a managerial package, and the pair have enjoyed a solid if unspectacular start to their stint at the PTS Academy Stadium.

Town have gradually eased away from the Sky Bet League Two relegation zone under the stewardship of Curle and West, and going into the final straight of the season they sit 16th, 10 points above the drop zone, and 13 points shy of the play-offs.

Curle is obviously very much the boss but it is very much a management team, with West, who has enjoyed brief caretaker managerial stints at both Hartlepool and Millwall, a vital sounding board.

So how much input into team affairs does West have?

"Keith has always wanted my opinion, which is good, because otherwise what is the point of me being here?," said West, who hails from Wallsend on the outskirts of Newcastle.

"He knows that I won't just say yes to him for the sake of it.

"You have to have your own opinions, Keith takes them on board, and he will then make the final decision which I will go with.

"But, I have to say that something Keith has done everywhere we have been together, is if I have said something to him and then we have changed and it's came off, he will pull me and say 'well done'.

"He'll say, 'that's good information - but it is kind of your job!' Which is fair enough isn't it?"

West played a lot of his football in the top divisions of English football, while Curle spent the majority of his career in the top flight, and is of course a former England international.

Another ex-England player joined the league two managers' club this week, with former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes taking charge of Oldham Athletic.

Earlier this season ex-Tottenham, Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell took the reins at Macclesfield as well, so is West pleased to see these legends of the English game being given a managerial chance in the lower leagues.

"I think it is needed," said West. "With the greatest respect to foreign managers, there are a lot within all the leagues in this country.

"I think it is a time when we need to get a few more English managers, because we all take our badges, we all take our qualifications, and who's to say that foreign managers are better than us?

"But they do seem to get that job, whether it's through a fancy name or whatever it is, I don't know."

Scholes enjoyed a dream start to his stint at Boundary Park as the Latics thrashed Yeovil Town 4-1 on Tuesday night.

Having played his entire career at the top level, being involved in league two may come as someting of a culture shock for Scholes, but West is sure he will adapt.

"I think Oldham is a club that Paul has always supported, and has always had an affiliation with," said West.

"He used to go and watch them, and support them, so he knows what he is walking into.

"Football wise, he may get a little frustrated because he has always been at that top level, and Keith and myself were a bit similar with this.

"But you get accustomed to it, and you try and grow from there, rather than wanting players to do things that you could do yourself.

"It will be a learning process for him."