Thursday, 3 June 2010

Av A Go Hero

Avram Grant has signed a four-year deal to become West Ham manager, subject to the Israeli being granted a work permit, the club confirmed today. It is an appointment that brings "experience and stability" according to the club's co-owner David Gold.

Grant led Portsmouth to last month's FA Cup final before leaving Fratton Park two weeks ago and also steered Chelsea into the 2008 Champions League final. "I am proud and honoured to be the manager of West Ham," said Grant, who is currently out of the country. "It will be an exciting challenge and I am ready to do my best. This is a fantastic club with great fans and a history that is respected around the world. I am already looking forward to getting to work with my players in July and preparing for the new season."

Grant was sacked by Chelsea shortly after the European final defeat by Manchester United two years ago. The 55-year-old Israeli returned to the Barclays Premier League with Portsmouth last October, first as director of football and then as manager following the removal of Paul Hart. His success in leading Portsmouth, who were subsequently placed into administration, to the FA Cup final amid horrendous financial constraints won universal approval.

His predecessor Gianfranco Zola steered West Ham to safety last season with 35 points, enough to keep them one place above the relegation zone, but was sacked soon after. The Hammers were saved more by the shortcomings of the teams below them than their own efforts, forcing Gold and Sullivan to act. "I have to say that having met Avram and spent some time with him that we have got our man. He is a perfect fit," said Gold. "We needed experience and stability. He's a footballing man and quite frankly his reputation speaks for itself. He has a great sense of humour and I'm sure the players will relate to him and the fans will warm to him."

From his two previous jobs in England Grant would appear ideally suited to be the new United manager. At Chelsea, he learnt how to cope with owners who do not restrict themselves to glad-handing in the directors' lounge, while over the past six months at Portsmouth, he showed he could cope without having any money. Gold insisted he knew within an hour of discussions that he could fruitfully work with a manager who 'has been there, done that and got the T-shirt'. "The bottom line is the relationship between the manager and the chairman is critical," he said. "In our case it's two chairmen so it's even more difficult as you need to have a relationship between three people."

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic, Blackpool boss Ian Holloway, Cardiff manager Dave Jones and Sam Allardyce of Blackburn had also been linked with the job. "I'm delighted to welcome Avram to West Ham and am confident he will prove a success," added David Sullivan. "We have taken our time over this appointment and are certain we have got the right man. We are all looking forward to next season with new players coming in and Avram's arrival is just the latest reason for real optimism."

Grant will be officially unveiled later this month subject to a successful work permit application. The Israeli must reapply every time he starts a new job, though West Ham expect the process to run smoothly. Grant's priority is to prevent a repeat of last season which saw the club flirt with relegation before finishing in 17th place. He certainly faces a busy summer. Grant arrives with the club estimated to be £110m in debt after the profligacy of the previous Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson regime, and with Gold and Sullivan having announced that offers will be considered for all of the first-team squad, bar captain Scott Parker. Nevertheless Grant, who managed a number of club sides in Israel before becoming coach of the national side for four years, is said to be relishing the opportunity. Sullivan also stated that new players will be arriving at Upton Park over the summer, though how much the new man has to spend has yet to be revealed.

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