The Libero - Avram Grant deserves his moment in the sun
Published: 14 Apr 2010 - 07:54:57
It's been a truly dreadful season for anyone associated with Portsmouth Football Club. Or at least it was until Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham.
Finally fate - manifesting itself in the form of the shockingly poor Wembley pitch and the equally abysmal Alan Wiley - conspired to project a ray of sunshine on the club's desperate cause, allowing their beleaguered fans to briefly forget the side's relegation from the Premier League and enjoy a moment of unbridled joy.
That it came at the expense of Harry Redknapp and a number of other former employees only made it even sweeter.
Nobody could begrudge the travelling Pompey fans their moment in the spotlight - they have been through the mill and back again in what has been the most turbulent and traumatic of seasons. Even that bloke with the silly hat, blue hair, tattoos and his incessant bell ringing managed to garner some goodwill.
The players too fully deserve their spoils of battle - the chance to play in the Wembley showpiece on May 15. For a rag-tag bunch of loyal veterans, hired guns and unwanted rejects, they showed remarkable desire and spirit, not only to reach the semi-final but then to see off a Spurs side that was supposedly far superior in every respect.
Of course the prospect of playing in a Cup final should be motivation enough for a player to dig deep into his reserves, but don't forget these same players have regularly not been paid on time this season and have had to deal with the kind of off-field goings-on that would have derailed many other, less determined types.
But most of all, Avram Grant deserves this unexpected success. Grant is a likeable man who was inexplicably badly treated at Chelsea. His reputation suffered as a result, but he undoubtedly remains an excellent football coach.
If by guiding a Chelsea to the Champions League final he failed to convince some people of his talent, surely now this latest final appearance will have do what is necessary to win over the doubters.
With Chelsea, owned by the vastly wealthy Roman Abramovich, Grant inherited an enviable squad filled with world class players and schooled most recently by Jose Mourinho. They were used to winning and Grant continued in that vein, going the entire season unbeaten at home and leading his side to that final against Manchester United.
But he was promptly sacked following John Terry's infamous penalty shoot-out slip as United ran out winners in Moscow; there are even those who believe he would have got the boot regardless of the result.
Yet at Portsmouth, he inherited a club on the decline, a club riddled with financial problems and a club which had been so mismanaged at a higher level over recent years that administration was a sadly inevitable conclusion.
And still Grant has managed to salvage something from the ruins. Yes, Pompey have been relegated, but it is not Grant who should be held responsible for that - that particular honour has to go to the succession of inept and greedy owners who led the club a merry dance into financial meltdown long before the points deduction effectively sealed the club's their return to the second tier of English football.
So forget about the league, it is the club's FA Cup run in this of all seasons that serves to reinforce the view that Grant is a top flight manager.
He will still be on board at Fratton Park when a line is drawn under this campaign, but despite his fiercely loyal character, a move elsewhere must be likely.
Given Pompey's financial state, they are unlikely to repeat this season's feats of Newcastle or West Brom and go straight back up, leaving Grant to either remain loyal and fester in the lower leagues or reluctantly turn his back on Pompey and continue to earn a crust in the Premier League with another club.
Considering what he has achieved with such limited resources this season, there is no doubt where Grant belongs. And with rumours already circulating about interested clubs, all that remains to be seen is whether the manager himself is willing to accept that.
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- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
- Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.
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