Avram Grant’s reign at Portsmouth last season, dramatically contrasted to the situation when he was at Chelsea in 2008. As Portsmouth was a debt ridden club, who were on the brink of extinction, let alone the fear of relegation. Some will argue, Portsmouth’s off the field matters meant the club were certain to be relegated. Due to their 10 point deduction because the club went into administration. So Grant was a manager in a losing battle, one which he had little control over. Yet some disagree, if Portsmouth hadn’t had 10 points deducted they would have still finished bottom. This is very true. But it has to be considered that this Portsmouth team at times weren’t even paid by the club. This must of had a serious effect on the player’s performances and desire. Seeing as footballers nowadays are in the luxury culture of lucrative contracts and consistent pay. Let’s also put this into perspective, if you weren’t getting paid for your job, your commitment and drive towards the job would decline considerably. It’s the same for footballers too.
Furthermore, in the summer of 2009 and the January 2010 transfer windows, Portsmouth sold their prized assets. The likes of Peter Crouch, Glen Johnson and Niko Kranjcar were all sold. The number of dramatic changes to the first team would have affected the confidence and ambition of the squad. As Portsmouth were now a selling club.
Yet, Avram Grant did achieve a fantastic feat whilst at Portsmouth. Amongst all the adversity off the field. Avram Grant managed to take his team all the way to the FA Cup final. They beat Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham side in the semi-final. A day most Portsmouth fans will never forget.
The final was a closely matched affair against Chelsea. Kevin Prince- Boateng missed a penalty which would have given Portsmouth the lead. And a minute later, Dider Drogba scored from a free kick to give Chelsea the lead. Again, the fate of penalties for Grant was the difference.
So Avram Grant left Portsmouth as a heroic figure, making the club dream of cup glory even if the long term future looked bleak. But, most were still unsure of whether Grant was a great manager or a fortunate manager.
Most saw the appointment of Grant to West Ham as a good move for both sides. Yet, things have been tough for Grant and the Hammers. West Ham started the season off poorly. In fact it was West Ham’s worst ever start in the Premier League. Hardly inspiring stuff. And Grant’s future has been continually called into question. But the team’s form gradually improved. They picked up useful wins such as; three points away at Fulham and a vital win at home against fellow relegation candidates Wolves.
But again, like at Portsmouth off the field matters have continuously a casted shadow over Grant. By January the 15th it seemed as if Martin O’Neil was set to take the reigns at West Ham. The story was rumoured to be true, expect O’Neil rejected the offer. The behaviour by the West Ham owners was disgraceful. Simple as. They showed no respect towards their manager.
Even after the mess regarding Martin O’Neil. No one can deny the board haven’t backed Grant in the transfer window. In January, Grant signed, 5 players. Most of them are very decent acquisitions too. The signings of Wayne Bridge (on loan), Robbie Keane (Loan), Demba Ba and Gary O’Neil are all good deals.
Furthermore, some will argue, Grant inherited a poor squad when he joined the club. I agree, some of the players at West Ham are very poor. And aren’t Premier League standard. But there are some quality players the too. The likes of Scott Parker, Charlton Cole, Mathew Upson, Robert Green and Victor Obinna are all good players. The January signings will only add more quality to the side. Especially the signing of Robbie Keane. An experienced, yet potent Premier League striker.
One issue is will the players develop an understanding between themselves. This is the risk Grant has taken by signing so many players in January. It’s up to him to try and help his players develop an understanding of his methods of play. Arguably the lack of understanding has recently cost them in their last few matches. The defeat against Birmingham at Upton Park springs to mind. And the 3 all draw against West Brom. The West Ham’s defence was utterly woeful. But it’s up to Grant to bring the players closer as a unit and as a family in order to develop an understanding on the pitch.
When Grant was poorly handled by Karen Brady and the two West Ham owners over the O’Neil saga, I leapt to the defence of Grant (here’s the piece.) But Grant has been backed by the owners in January. Of course they haven’t thrown millions at him. But they have allowed him to capture good footballers.
Most managers after their dismissal or when their really under scrutiny argue, they ‘weren’t given enough of a financial backing by the owners.’ The owners have sufficiently backed Grant. It’s now up to Avram Grant to prove he is a decent manager and save West Ham from relegation. Yes his treatment at the club hasn’t been great. But he has been given the resources to do a good job.
By the end of the season, we will see the real credentials of the Israeli.