02 May, 2008

No Grant of Confidence

What makes me laugh most about Chelsea fans is that they are literally never happy these days, and that makes me feel a bit sorry for Avram Grant. For just not being Jose Mourinho, every supporter hates him no matter how much success he enjoys, and it’s pretty much a given that even if he wins the double, Roman Ambramovich will sack him in the summer in favour of a ‘big name.’ But it’s not just disliking him as a person; the fans actively complain that he doesn’t know what he’s doing in the job, and lacks any tactical nous whatsoever. Soooo, just in the last month then, he’s turned around a deficit to beat Arsenal, advanced past Liverpool in a Champions league semi-final, and finally also beaten Manchester United to draw Chelsea level on points at the top of the Premier League pile with the defending Champions. I’m sorry, but what more could he actually be doing? If that’s failure then I’d take it any day of the week for my own club of choice.

It seems that Abramovich still wants more though; this kind of success, sure, but achieved with that kind of swagger that few teams apart from Barcelona possess. Thing is though, for all their delightful play and skills, Barce are out of the Champions League and facing their worst finish in La Liga for quite some time. After guiding Chelsea to their first European Cup final in history, a feat obviously outside of Mourinho’s reach, can Abramovich really sack Grant? Well obviously he can do anything he wants, but it’s just crazy, and strikes me as just acting out like a spoiled kid denied that one unavailable toy. Abramovich hasn’t attended a game since the disappointing Carling Cup Final, and as such, has refused to give Grant any assurances about his job after the season ends. The nervous boss has demanded showdown talks with Abramovich, but the aspiring Bond villain can’t leave Russia at the moment because of presidential elections. As a result, Grant has been told in no uncertain terms by other club officials to just get on with his job and win the Stamford Bridge faithful a trophy.

Radio phone-ins and club forums have amazingly still been plagued with ‘Grant out!’ sentiments this week, even after the jubilation of Wednesday’s victory, suggesting perhaps that it’s just the trendy thing these days among Blues’ fans to toe the party line. Finally though, club captain John Terry has chimed in with this today though: “I would have thought getting to the Champions League Final would be enough to keep Avram his job, things have been very good and results don’t lie. You look at the Premier League table since the manager’s taken over, and he’s been very good. It’s for the club to make the decision. All we can do is get out there and do our best for the manager, which is what we’ve done to get to the final. I think the manager deserves more respect from people outside the club, and rightly so. It’s the first time in the club’s history we’ve got to the final. It’s incredible to get to where we are and still be questioning the manager’s role at the club.”

Tactically, Grant has clearly got it right when it’s mattered, and as far as juggling the egos and massive squad, few people seem as pissed off this season as in the long-forgotten Mourinho era. If Abramovich captures the Champions League this season, one wonders perhaps if he’ll see that as crowning jewel, and pull out altogether. His uncharacteristic lack of attendance in recent months seems to indicate that maybe he’d losing interest, and with that missing trophy finally captured, he might feel it’s time for pastures new. If that happens, be very afraid for Chelsea.

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