Avram Grant, a name that, barely four years ago, most people in England wouldn’t have been able to put a face to, has steadily fought his way into the arena of English football and into the affections of its fans.
His burgeoning reputation has continued its dramatic rise following the Israeli’s second stint at Fratton Park, his first being as Director of Football to Harry Redknapp.
Faced with unprecedented challenges in the Premier League last season, Grant has acted with great calm and dignity, rallying what many already deemed a beaten side to achieve some notable performances; even once the inevitable relegation from the league had finally been confirmed. That Portsmouth were able to reach the FA Cup Final was an incredible feat for a club, who barely weeks earlier, had been faced with liquidation. In the tumbling ruins of Portsmouth’s season, Grant was somehow able to create a unifying spirit and collective strength in a last act of defiance.
In his short time as a manager in England, Avram Grant has certainly led his teams to some notable achievements. Upon the shock departure of Jose Mourinho from Chelsea in 2007, many Blues fans were questioning the future of the team, so engrained was the Mourinho influence. When Avram Grant was named as manager, these questions became even more forceful. Where was the stellar name to replace a manager such as Mourinho? Grant, however, swept the supporter’s doubts away as he led the club to their first ever European Cup Final, something not even the ‘Special One’ was able to achieve, where they agonisingly lost out to Manchester United. A second place finish in the league, where they also narrowly lost out to United, was by no means a resounding failure. Many in the game, as with Gianfranco Zola more recently, sympathised with Grant after he was swiftly sacked to make way for Luis Felipe Scolari, a manager who wasn’t able to repeat Grant’s successes and wasn’t to last very long.
A period spent out of the game came to an end once Portsmouth parted ways with Paul Hart and Grant stepped back into the spotlight. Credit must be given to the Israeli for even accepting the challenge in the first place, a situation which seemed, even then, to be a lost cause. Such was his love of the club, he came to their aid when they were in desperate trouble and needed a steadying influence in the club. Many would have been reluctant to even discuss the prospect of taking over at Portsmouth such were the troubles they were experiencing. But for cruel penalty misses, Grant could be leaving Portsmouth with an FA Cup winners medal to add to a Champions League winners medal with Chelsea.
Now that that season is over, Grant can leave Portsmouth with his head held high and with the respect of everyone in the English game. He is now highly sought, no doubt to be linked with every Premier League vacancy that arises. He deserves a position in the Premier League, for his spirit and personality as for his managerial skills. As things stand it appears that West Ham have stolen a march on their rivals.
Although personally sharing some disappointment at the sacking of Zola, West Ham and Avram Grant appears to be a good match. Despite the Hammer’s struggles last season, they remain one of the biggest clubs in England, with a great, loyal fan base. I’m sure the majority of football fans in general were pleased to see West Ham avoid relegation; such is the impact and contribution they have made to the English game over the years. They are a Premier League club, of that there is no doubt.
West Ham appear to be giving Avram Grant the opportunity he deserves, to be back in the Premiership and managing at a top club. Compared to the other managers said to have been short-listed to succeed Zola, Grant is the outstanding candidate. Sam Allardye, Ian Hollaway and Dave Jones, although each with certain achievements of their own, have not managed at as high a level as Avram Grant.
However, even if West Ham do manage to bag Grant, it is imperative that Gold and Sullivan provide him with the backing necessary to take the club forward. Grant will certainly seek these assurances before accepting the job, especially after working in such exceptional circumstances down at Fratton Park. The West Ham team, at the present time, is not of the required standard and if changes are not made, fans can start to prepare for another season of relegation struggle. One reason why people were sad to see Zola relieved of his duties was because it was difficult to see what else he could of done with the tools at his disposal. Lacking the financial means to make any significant signings and deprived of his best player, Carlton Cole for much of the season, he should perhaps instead have been praised for his ability to keep the club in the top division.
Much will depend of the club’s ability to hang onto their better players such as Carlton Cole and others, including Scott Parker, Rob Green and Matthew Upson. West Ham is a club, which has always tried to maintain a British core, producing through their academy some of the best players in the game. Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and others. It is a club, which has always given youth an opportunity, mixing it with older, more experienced pros and with the foreign flair and ability to make them an attractive outfit. It is important this summer therefore that they don’t lose these players, those that understand the history of the club and what it means to the supporters. Task One for Grant will be to secure the futures of these players.
If the chairmen can assure Grant that West Ham will endeavour to move forward then West Ham is a perfect club for him to continue to build on his impressive reputation. So strong is the history of the club and its name within football, that quality players will join if the means are there to acquire them. If Gold and Sullivan really do mean business then a season spent pushing for a European place rather than fighting relegation is a definite possibility.
Avram Grant is certainly due a break.