So Avram Grant gets the sack. We forecast it months ago but he’s lasted longer than I ever imagined. It never was going to be an inspired appointment, although that’s how Kenyon and Buck tried to present it at the news conference to announce his appointment as Chelsea manager. He was following in the footsteps of the most successful manager in Chelsea history, Jose Mourinho, the self-anointed ‘special one’. But he came in as a friend of Abramovitch having, it is said, been active in undermining Jo-Mo’s position at the club whilst Director of Football (a position JM thought was unnecessary). The players never really took to him – referring to him as Avram Can’t. Several, including the influential Drogba, openly flaunted their disappointment over the Mourinho sacking ( and by inference their disenchantment with his successor). Not a good start…
Henk ten Cate was brought in as his number two for reasons which escape me since they had a fine assistant there already in Steve Clarke. If the players disliked Grant’s quiet, reserved and dour personna after the flamboyance and self-confidence of Mourinho, they absolutely hated Cate’s abrasive style (didn’t Terry and he square up on the eve of the Carling Cup Final?). Cate became less of an influence over time which I guess allowed grant the space to become his own man. He brought in two players in the January transfer window; some unknown guy who hasn’t yet played in the first team and le sulk himself, Annelka. It could and perhaps should have been the transfer coup of the year but no doubt fearful of upsetting the other drama queen Drogba, Grant has selected Annelka on an occasional basis and then asked him to play in a wide role, unsuited to his abilities and his temperament (star or nothing). Annelka’s confidence and interest has been plummeting ever since and reached its inevitable nadir with that fluffed penalty in the Champion’s League final shoot-out. And speaking of which, word is seeping from the camp that Grant’s pre-match speech before last week’s final was nervy, incoherent and uninspiring. All those meaningful looks from the touchline were nothing more than a cover for a guy who didn’t know what to do tactically.
And yet…he came as close as any manager can to actually seeing his team win the biggest club competition in world football; one slip and it was gone. He also pushed a Man U side (who Sir Alex has said is the best reds team he’s ever managed and possibly the best ever) to within a whisker of the Premiership title and taken Chelski to another Carling Cup Final. If this had been Benitez they would be calling it a magnificent achievement. But Grant has never had his admirers in the team, amongst the fans nor in the media and no-one’s giving him much credit, except himself. He seems to me like a guy who was in the right place at the right time and got a top job, that was ultimately too big for him. A classic case of over-promotion. But he himself seems to believe his track record is good enough to get him another top job somewhere. Well, maybe Avram but I’d think seriously about a return to the role of Director of Football somewhere – get your money for nothing (and your chicks for free).
So what now and more importantly who now at Chelsea? Rijkaard – not sure, maybe’s he’s in need of a break. Mancini – could be. SG Eriksson – surely he had his chance and passed. Hiddink – think Abramovitch likes him out of the media spotlight in Russia. I sense that they’ll clear out all the management team and start again with some role for Zola almost certainly. He could make an excellent assistant to Mancini but a more inspired move might be to have him partnering Mark Hughes instead. It’s hard to second-guess Abramovitch at this sort of thing. However one thing’s very clear; whoever comes in will be in charge of a huge clear-out of players in the summer. I reckon 11 or more could leave (with quite a few coming in to replace them of course). In that case maybe the Russians should be sounding out old ‘arry Redknapp – possibly the only guy who could teach Abramovitch a thing or two about wheeler-dealing.
Could be a fun summer down the Bridgski.