Avram Grant was denied the biggest prize in European football by the width of a post. Not just once, but on three occasions as Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry all hit the woodwork either from open play or the penalty spot.
Not only did the Israeli get the London club to the final of the Champions League, something that ‘the special one’ never achieved, but he out thought Sir Alex Ferguson in the second half as Chelsea pretty much dominated Manchester United up until extra time.
And his reward? The sack. Eight months into a four year contract, Grant is the Chelsea coach no more.
Chelsea say that his record isn’t good enough. Runners up in the Premier League, Carling Cup and Champions League represents failure in the eyes of chief executive Peter Kenyon, chairman Bruce Buck and ultimately, so we must believe, owner Roman Abramovich.
So, what did he do wrong? Well, he didn’t win anything for a start. Mind you, neither did Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and there’s no chance of him being handed a P45. Grant was also accused of presiding over a team that didn’t play entertaining football. Well again, looking across London, Arsenal were by far the most attractive team in the Premier League and how many trophies did they win this season? Exactly the same number as Chelsea.
It could be argued that Grant was in a no win situation the moment his took over. Jose Mourinho had delivered two Premier League titles, was loved by the fans, the players and the media. Grant wasn’t. Indeed, some of the carping by the high profile names in the team may well have done for him whatever he achieved this term. The same high profile names that he hugged and commiserated with in the pouring rain in Moscow. I wonder how they’re feeling right now? Hopefully, less than proud with themselves.
The media had it in for him too. Mourinho was a delight for them. Loud, brash, always quotable, always interesting. A journo’s dream. Grant was quiet, even dour at times. And yet, despite constant questions over his future virtually from day one, he showed the football word that some people can behave with dignity and tact.
As for the Chelsea hierarchy, they could be accused of being the architects of their own downfall. Grant had never managed a club in England before and didn’t even have the necessary coaching qualifications. And yet, they gave him a four year contract. Four years! And that’s cost them a reported £5.2 million in compensation. This is just rank bad financial management. OK, Abramovich won’t worry about it too much, it’s only a couple of quid to him but the sheer scale of the financial waste at Chelsea is staggering. Somehow, you can’t see companies such as M & S or ICI making the same kind of decisions. The shareholders would go ballistic.
And so as Grant makes way, the search for a successor starts. Amazingly, two of the names already being bandied about are Frank Rijkaard (complete failure at Barcelona last season) and Sven Goran Eriksson (another coach who looks like being given his marching orders soon by a club owner with an over inflated sense of his own footballing expertise).
Although it looks as if he might be on his way out as well, best give the job to Steve Clarke in my opinion. He knows the club, knows the players, loves the fans and the fans love him. And money wise, he’d probably do it for substantially less than some of the bigger names in world football. Chelsea promoted from within last time and through no fault of Avram Grant, they just happened to pick the wrong bloke.