Grant remains in denial to the sorry, bitter end
Already sacked when he arrived for Sunday’s post-match press conference, West Ham boss Avram Grant refused to confirm his departure
The rumours of his demise had already started before Avram Grant stepped into the post-match press conference on Sunday and one look at the forlorn figure sheepishply creeping into the room seemed to confirm it.
True to the last, or maybe false to the last, the West Ham manager was not prepared to admit he was a goner and not prepared to accept that his team had not played well in the disturbing finale to this gruesome season.
He looked and sounded like a lost soul, as if somehow he wasn’t expecting either relegation to hit his team, or for the owners to swing the axe.
“It is very sad for me,” he mumbled. “It is the most sad day I have had since I started in football 40 years ago.
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“It is the first time I have faced this situation. All I will say is that I am very, very sad, especially for the supporters and the people in the club.”
Grant seems to have airbrushed out last season’s relegation with Portsmouth. Perhaps he thinks the Premier League’s points deduction makes it invalid, but in truth, Grant has proved himself perhaps the worst manager in the history of the club.
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His statistics do not quite back that up. He has a better win record than both Glenn Roeder and Gianfranco Zola, but that was buoyed by the fact that he has won more cup games (8) than league games (7), beating the likes of Oxford, Barnsley, Burnley and to be fair Manchester United.
“I came with a lot of desire and a lot of belief that we could do something here and I still believe,” he said. “I knew the financial problems, I knew the team were saved from relegation last year because the league was weak.”
Grant doesn’t like to make excuses and yet the excuses come flooding out, he doesn’t like to talk about luck, but then says his teams don’t have any.
So who is culpable for West Ham’s relegation? At least the Israeli was able to hold his hand up for that one.
“I take responsibility,” he admitted. “It was my responsibility to pick the team for every game and for the tactics, so it is my responsibility about the results.”
He did have a addendum to that statement however: “Just one thing I have to say is that the quality of the football played was good.
“This I can argue with everybody, but the results were not good and this I cannot argue with anybody.”
Many fans would like to argue about the quality of the football. Grant’s 4-3-3 formation worked as well as the players he selected to play it, and as that was different almost every week, it was difficult to get to master it.
His selections were often baffling, his team-talks almost non-existent and his insistence on the team sitting back in a vain attempt to hold on to a lead, was suicidal.
West Ham’s squad this season was far superior to most of the bottom half in the Premier League, they also boast the Footballer of the Year, so why have they failed?
Did he fail to get the best out of his squad?
“No, I don’t think so,” insisted Grant. “If you see the players that I had, Scott Parker has had the best season of his life, James Tomkins has developed a lot, Danny Gabbidon has had a good season, Rob Green recovered very well from the World Cup.
“The players we had from January were a good squad and they performed well.”
If four league wins in 17 games is the mark of a team performing well, then it is just as well they weren’t playing badly!
Grant is right to say some of his players performed well, but what about Kieron Dyer? What about Pablo Barrera, Winston Reid, Matty Upson, Luis Boa Morte, Julien Faubert, Radoslav Kovac? What about Robbie Keane?
None of them proved good enough and some of them he barely spoke to as they slipped down the pecking order.
Sacked moments after coming off the field at the end of the game, he still refused to admit it.
“I don’t know my future,” he said. “I don’t think about myself, it is too tough for me, this situation of relegation, it is the first time I’ve faced this situation.”
It wasn’t, but Grant remained in denial to the very end as he trudged away.
Widely respected throughout the football world, the Israeli will be remembered at West Ham for taking a promising team and reducing them to a disorganised rabble.
The board must take some responsibility for appointing him and then undermining him; the players must take some responsibility for their inconsistent failings; but the buck stops with the manager and without him, even from January onwards, West Ham would almost certainly have stayed up.