George Curtis is dead
By Håvard Lindheim, 3 December 2004, 08:12
The Rosenborg head coach for parts of the club's first golden age has died. George Curtis was 85 years old.
The Englishman with experience from both Southampton and Arsenal replaced Knut Næss as RBK's coach ahead of the 1969 season. His first meeting with the Rosenborg players is legendary:
"This is a ball," Curtis stated whilst pointing to the round leather ball.
"Don't go too fast, now!" Odd Iversen laughed.
Curtis has, in retrospect, received much of the credit for bringing modern defensive football to Norway. From across the North Sea he brought with him his flat backline 4-4-2 formation, pressure on the ball carrier and tactical focus.
"I was the team captain under George Curtis and it was him who taught us defensive play and organization," Nils Arne Eggen has previously said.
The 1969 debut season ended with a premiership title for RBK. Odd Iversen, hungry for goals as usual, was responsible for 26 of the 36 goals scored by Rosenborg in the premier division.
But all was not well. Both the club leadership and the spectators disliked George Curtis' defensive style. In the 1969 annual club report the following may be read:
«So, what has the 1969 season given us? A Norwegian premiership! A badly needed defensive system! A reduced attack! What Rosenborg shall build on for the future, only time will tell. Our opinion is, if Rosenborg are to keep on dominating the Norwegian league, we must play more attacking.»
Curtis was allowed to continue for one more season. Despite placing second in the 1970 league, it was an anti-climax. The dynamic duo of "Ivers" and Harald Sunde were sold to Belgian Division 2 club Racing Mechelen before the start of the season and with them went all of RBK's attacking play. 18 league games later, Rosenborg ended up with an almost unbelieveable goal difference of 15-5!
At this point, the Rosenborg management who already was displeased with the previous year, saw no other choice than to say their farewells to George Curtis. Nils Arne Eggen and Tor Røste Fossen replaced him. Curtis went on home to England, but in 1972 he returned to Norway. This time to coach the national team. He only got to lead Norway through 17 international matches before he was sacked. Again, he was replaced by Eggen.
Before the 1976 season, RBK needed a new coach. Club management decided to give George Curtis a second chance. Unfortunately, the Englishman was reduced following a car accident in which his Norwegian wife died, and Rosenborg quickly ended up struggling to avoid relagation. A 0-4 defeat against Division 3 side Røros in the 2nd round of the cup sealed his fate: Curtis was released from his contract. For the third time, his successor's name was Nils Arne Eggen. Under his leadership RBK managed to claw their way back from the bottom - thereby postponing relegation by a year.
George Curtis was buried in Essex on Tuesday 23 November.