Saturday, 15 January 2011

What next for Avram Grant?

There's something oddly loveable about Avram Grant. While he seems as inspirational as a toilet brush, he no doubt cares deeply about the game of football, and each club he has managed, he manages to attract some degree of sympathy.

At Chelsea he without doubt did quite a good job, coming so close to winning the one trophy that eluded Mourinho, and Abramovich's treatment of him was not something to be proud of.. At Portsmouth he inherited a club that was falling apart on and off the pitch. It would be inaccurate to say that the 9 point deduction relegated them, as they were still 7 points short of safety, but he at least got the team playing well, albeit not getting the results they deserved. There aren't many Portsmouth fans who will have bad words to say about Grant, who has always carried himself with more dignity than some of his bosses over the years..

At West Ham, there is no doubt that he has made mistakes. An overly conservative style of play in the early weeks of the season, while still somehow leaking goals, put him on the back foot straight away. Some may say he has been a dead man walking ever since the first home game of the season, when Bolton inflicted a 3-1 defeat on his new side.

Still, the actions of Gold, Sullivan and the chairman Karen Brady, have left Grant in a surprisingly strong position with the fans. The co-owners promised stability when they took over the club a year ago, and vowed to run the club in a financially responsible way - while still seeming determined to spend big-money wages on whoever the latest available aging striker was.. remember Van Nistelrooy? Failing that, they have managed to stump up the extortionate sum of Wayne Bridge's wages till the end of the season, while managing to fall out with Grant over the botched signing of Steven Sidwell. In Bridge's debut earlier this evening, he was at fault for all 3 Arsenal goals. I would be very surprised if Avram Grant has any say in that deal.

Speaking of surprise, I'm sure Grant was feeling that emotion very strongly this morning, when reading that he was about to be replaced by Martin O'Neill. Someone is massively at fault here, whether that is the West Ham board for letting private negotiations become public, or the BBC for publishing a false story. Either way, the deafening silence at board level is unforgivable. With no one knowing where Grant stood, that cannot have had a great effect on West Ham's performance during the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, and the team certainly looked drained.

Bar their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Newcastle, West Ham have picked up their form drastically over the last month, ever since that first disgraceful three-game ultimatum was allegedly issued. I watched their 2-1 victory over Birmingham in the Carling Cup, and the players gave a solid display, clearly behind their embattled manager. There were certainly no chants of 'Grant Out', even when the team was behind.

The bottom line is, there is no one team being cast adrift this season. Only five points separate West Ham at the bottom from Everton in 12th. They have momentum, or at least they did, before the board decided to play their mind games. Three wins in a row, and West Ham would be in relative mid-table comfort. While there are no arguments that Martin O'Neill is a better manager than Avram Grant, right now West Ham's owners do not deserve a manager of any calibre. If this season is destined for relegation, then they certainly take the greatest share of the blame.

As for Grant, well does anyone really know what quality of a manager he is? If, as expected, he is relieved of his duties, I would like to see a Championship side take a chance on him, to see if he has what it takes to get a team promoted. If anyone deserves something on his CV, through pure persistence against the odds, it is Avram.

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