Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Avram Granted Permit

West Ham United manager Avram Grant has had his work permit application approved by the Home Office and is now free to start work at the Boleyn Ground. Theresa May was obviously very eager for Grant to concentrate all his energies on preparing the Hammers for the new Premier League season. The vastly-experienced 55-year-old agreed a four-year contract with the club last week and joins shortly after leading Portsmouth to the FA Cup final.

Chairman David Gold expressed his pleasure that the new manager's arrival had been rubber-stamped. "Avram is very charismatic, he has great humour and I believe that he will be, hopefully, one of the great managers that West Ham have had in years," said Mr Gold. "I am absolutely delighted with the choice. I feel we've chosen a very special man." The Israeli, who also took Chelsea to the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League final, will now finalise the makeup of his backroom staff. First out of the door could be fitness coach Antonio Pintus, who is set to leave today.

Grant has already spoken of his enthusiasm at taking on the "exciting challenge" of managing West Ham. Having made his first signing of the summer with the capture of midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger on a free transfer at the weekend, the official site states he will spend the next few months working alongside Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold to bring more high-profile signings to the club.

One such target could be Onyekachi Apam. According to today's Times, United have had a £2 million bid for the Nigerian international rejected by Nice, who value the player at twice that amount. The imposing central defender was a key member of the Nigerian side that finished as runner-up at the 2005 World Youth championships and gained a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He was excellent at the African Cup of Nations that same year, but has not always had the recognition he feels he deserves at full international level. Onyekachi has already been linked with moves to Ligue 1 heavyweights Marseille and Lyon but admits he has his heart set on a switch to the English Premier League. "My aim is to play for one of the top-five clubs in the world," he states. "To this end, a good World Cup is a must for me." The Mirror claims Rennes have already offered £3million for the 23-year-old.

The same article confirms United have also been turned down by Sidney Govou, the Lyons and France forward, who feels that he will obtain a better offer after playing in the World Cup finals. He has one year left on his contract and has attracted interest from several other clubs. Another to slip through the net could be Dieumerci Mbokani. It was revealed yesterday that the club have made an inquiry about the Democratic Republic of Congo striker, but Fulham are thought to be closing in on an £8million deal for the 24-year-old. The Cottagers took the opportunity to hold talks with Standard Liege bosses in London on Tuesday over Mbokani, while reports in Belgium suggest Craven Cottage is the player's preferred destination.

Elsewhere, this morning's Sun insists United have 'joined the chase' to land Andrew Driver after Hearts threw out Burnley's £1.5million offer for the winger. Premier League rivals Wigan are also keen but reports yesterday that Chelsea have enquired about the 22-year-old are believed to be wide of the mark. The Sun think Gordon Strachan's Middlesbrough also remain in the hunt but whether they are willing to meet Vladimir Romanov's £4m price tag remains to be seen. They believe Hearts would consider accepting a loan fee with a fixed option for a permanent deal, which could prove attractive to interested clubs. Roman Bednar left Tynecastle in similar circumstances to join up with West Brom three seasons ago before sealing a £2.5m move the next year. Driver, meanwhile, is still awaiting confirmation from FIFA regarding his eligibility to play for Scotland.

The same paper claims David Gold last night opened the door for a bidding war on England keeper Robert Green. The 29-year-old Hammers No 1 has yet to be offered a new deal with just one year left on his contract. Gold, who believes Green will be Fabio Capello's first choice in South Africa, said: "At this stage we are not going to have talks with him about a new deal. World Cups change lives. It's the global shop window and who knows what may happen. We could get amazing offers - offers you can't refuse. What do you do if Manchester United or Real Madrid, for example, come in offering millions of pounds?" Gold added: "We have to see how Robert feels and consider the new manager's view. He will take the squad on a pre-season tour and judge Robert with everybody else."

In other news, Aston Villa are said to be leading the chase for Bulgarian star Martin Petrov. O’Neill hopes to get the international winger on a free transfer after he was released by Roberto Mancini yesterday. According to several sources, he faces competition from Everton, Spurs, Stoke, and Bolton. West Ham are also credited with an interest in the player, who is seeking one final two-year deal.

Finally, the official site have today put up a curious little article concerning Liam Ridgewell's recent appearance at Tony Carr's recent testimonial. The 'versatile' Birmingham City defender has just enjoyed a great season with the Blues, we are told, with the player having 'excelled' ever since a switch three years ago from local rivals Aston Villa. Aged 25, he is one of the Premier League's 'most reliable performers'. Ridgewell is not a Midlands man, we are reminded. He is a Londoner who forged his football career in Tony Carr's Academy and owes much of his success to his early days at Little Heath. Although he ultimately left the Hammers to join the Villa set-up back in 2001, he has never forgotten his original claret and blue roots. I swear there is a subtext here but I can't quite put my finger on it. If only the people who run our club were not so damn subtle.

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