I felt really sorry for Avram Grant on Sunday. Not only did he watch his West Ham team throw away a two goal lead at Wigan and get relegated in the process, he was also unceremoniously sacked minutes afterwards in an officer at Wigan’s ground. I wonder if he got a lift back to London on the team coach?
It was not the wrong decision to sack the manager and even a slightly tearful Grant accepted that in his post match press conference, before he knew for sure that he was going.
“It’s the saddest day since I started in football almost 40 years ago. I cannot say it in words. I am very, very sad, especially for the supporters and the people in the club. Football is a game of results. My job was to keep the team in the Premier League and I failed. I wanted to make these great fans happy and I couldn’t do it.”
No, there were two bad decisions. The first one was to appoint him as manager in the first place and the second one was to stick with him back in January when the world, including Grant himself, thought he was going to be relieved of his duties.
The reasons why the two Davids, Gold and Sullivan, together with Karen Brady, decided not to sack Grant back in January are not clear. They become even more confused when it has appeared that each of them have undermined the manager any number of times with comments about him and the players in the media since January.
The end result has been that a great club with great support will find itself playing in the Championship next season. Avram Grant was simply not able to motivate his players or organise them into a coherent shape that would stop them from being easy to beat. When they did produce a comeback a few weeks ago that showed a good deal of spirit it became clear afterwards that the motivational speech during the half-time break had been delivered by skipper Scott Parker rather than the manager.
Avram Grant is a likeable chap and he knows his football, but he was always fighting a losing battle with West Ham and it would have been better and kinder for all if he had gone in January and not had the ignomony of two successive relegations from the Premier League on his CV.
He was a little known coach in this country but had spent twenty years managing and coaching various club sides and the national team in Israel, before moving to England in 2006 to become director of football at Portsmouth. The then manager at Pompey, Harry Redknapp, was never comfortable with the appointment and after just one year, Grant moved to Chelsea to take on a similar role there. He was a personal friend of Roman Abramovich and came to the club at a time when relations between the owner and manager Jose Mourinho had reached an all time low.
Within two months, Mourinho had gone and Grant was installed as manager. The move didn’t go down well with many Chelsea fans. Grant didn’t have the necessary coaching qualifications and some Chelsea players went public about their lack of faith in the new manager. Despite all that, Grant remained in charge for the rest of that season. He led them to second place in the Premier League, the same place they had finished in the previous season, and he took the club to the Champions League final for the first and only time in their history. Only a John Terry slip in the penalty shoot-out stopped them from lifting the crown.
Shortly after that defeat, Grant was sacked. If he had been lucky to get the job in the first place, he was certainly desperately unlucky to lose it after the season he had.
That Summer he returned to his former club, Portsmouth, as director of football. Following a similar pattern to what had happened at Chelsea, Grant moved into the manager’s office after a couple of months when manager Paul Hart was dismissed. The club went into administration during the season and were docked nine points. They were relegated. Grant did lead them to the FA Cup final but they were beaten by, of all teams, Chelsea. Grant resigned at the end of the season.
West Ham then announced that Grant was to take over from Gianfranco Zola as their manager for this current season. He signed a four year deal, but that has now come to an abrupt end after just one season.
Grant won cups and league titles in Israel, but his time in England has been a story of runners-up places and relegations. It is really difficult to see where he might go from here. What I would say, however, is that if yhou are the manager of a club where Grant is hired to be director of football, don’t make any long term plans!!
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