The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief...It was predictable wasn't it? Our ushankared overlord drops an inflammatory communiqué to an apparatchik in the national press designed to get a reaction from manager and players... and manager and players duly proffer a solicited response in time for the next day's headlines. Several of the morning papers gleefully report Avram Grant has hit back at David Sullivan in the latest orchestrated 'war of words' at West Ham telling him: "I trust all of my players." Of course he does. And with it our national media continues to propagate new and congenial abuses.
The Sun reports co-owner Sullivan caused a 'new storm' at Upton Park by admitting he does not know whether he can trust the Hammers' out-of-contract stars to give their all in the club's battle against relegation. Although Grant insisted he neither read or heard what his chairman said, he was prompted to reply: I can say this - every player at this club has done everything they can to try and help the team stay in the league. I trust all of them."
Grant is set to include Matthew Upson, Jonathan Spector, Danny Gabbidon and Lars Jacobson - whose current deals all expire at the end of the season - in his starting line-up at Manchester City tomorrow. The Israeli said: "If you are professional by condition, it doesn't matter if you have a contract, don't have a contract, if your wife smiles at you, if the owners say nice things about you... I don't believe in these things. It doesn't matter as long as a player is professional by heart. Also, when a player is in the last days of his contract he wants to prove himself because he wants a new contract."
Indeed, if the vice-chairman ever expresses benevolence then you know you're in trouble. In the words of Chandler, Karren Brady gives the kind of smile you can feel in your hip pocket. Writing in her weekend column she states: "Losing 3-0 at Chelsea and dropping to the bottom of the table is no way to celebrate Scott Parker's election as the football writers' Player of the Year. It must be a unique feat and I suppose it could be said he has unique feet.Parker is a team man through and through and how we miss him at Stamford Bridge, even though we play well without reward. Again. As I've said before my players are better than any others in the bottom half of the league but I cannot prove it. Not yet anyway."
For his part, Sullivan admits he now rates the Hammers' chances of proving that superiority at '25 per cent'. Grant, whose side are bottom of the table with just four matches to go, insisted: "I am not a businessman like David. What I can tell you, though, is that we have a good chance to stay up and we will do everything to do it. It doesn't matter what percentage I rate our chances. If I say to you now there is a 51 per cent or 32.5 per cent chance it doesn't matter. It only matters in money because if he wants to give 25 per cent more to the players if they stay in the league, it is OK. If you put the chances of us staying up four months ago the chances were 10 per cent so it always changes. If we take four points from the next two games the percentage will be more than this but it will still continue until the end of the season."
Naturally, West Ham stars have reportedly taken umbrage at the claims that some might not be fighting hard enough to beat relegation. That tabloid favourite- a source close to one player- is reported to have remarked: "It's a strange way to motivate players by basically slagging them off. Sullivan should surely be conquering, not dividing. It's a bizarre statement at this time of the season. And if West Ham stay up with a goal in the last minute of the last game and it's scored by a player who is out of contract, Sullivan is then going to look pretty stupid." Well maybe, but at this point I'm guessing Sullivan could live with survival regardless of how it is secured. In fact, two things spring to mind here. Firstly, this well placed source can't have seen our porn-dwarf chairman in his russian hat; and secondly, there is someone in the West Ham dressing room who is not as well versed in the finer details of Il Principe as he needs to be.
This, of course, is not the first time this season Grant and the players have been involved in a war of words with the club's high-profile hierarchy. And the boss added: "They want us to stay in the league. But the most important thing for the players, even if the owner says they are the best players in the league, is to focus on what we need to do on the pitch. I am focused on these things and not other things. I can speak only about what I see. I could see yesterday, against Chelsea last weekend and the games before that the players are giving everything. Of course we can ask for more in quality but they are giving everything and the spirit is good. West Ham is a massive club and part of our vision is to stop fighting against relegation because West Ham did it too much in the last years and also this season. This season we knew it would be difficult but of course we didn't want to be in this place so we feel for the supporters. We are doing everything for them to feel good and I think even the supporters know the players give anything. They are behind us and if you saw the last game against Chelsea you heard them more than we heard the Chelsea supporters."
And after four straight defeats, Grant has lowered his points target for survival. "We have no intention to give up before any game," he said. "But of course the last three games will be the most important games. And I believe we can take points from these games. I said before we needed nine points and that will still be good. But now, because of the results of the other teams around us, I think seven will be enough."
That's the spirit Avram. Keep smiling through, just like you always do...