The fight itself towards the summits suffices to fill a heart of man; it is necessary to imagine Sisyphus happy...
Avram Grant will refuse to walk away from West Ham United even if they are relegated this season, leaving the club with a compensation bill of around £3.5m if it wants to get rid of the Israeli. Writing in the Guardian, Jamie Jackson states the 56-year-old will decline the chance to return to Chelsea, where he was formerly manager, to become the west London club's director of football if offered the post, contrary to reports.
West Ham will go down on Sunday if they lose at Wigan Athletic and even with a victory could be condemned by other results. Grant has told friends that despite a troubled season in which West Ham have rarely been out of the bottom three he still believes in the project David Gold and David Sullivan, the co-owners, signed him to do last summer.
This was to build a foundation on which to take the club forward over the next four seasons while developing the potential within the West Ham academy. While Grant may not get the chance to continue this if the club does go down, Sullivan and Gold would face a huge pay-off to remove him as he has three years remaining on his contract. It is the hefty price to pay for the staggeringly stupid decision to give the man a four-year contract, notes Steven Howard in today’s Sun.
Gold talked about Grant having 'been there, done it, got the T-shirt'. The only thing on his T-shirt was a big F. For Failure (just in case you thought it stood for something else), he quips. Bathing in his success of masterminding Portsmouth's relegation, he has gone on to fresh glory by winning more cup games this season (eight) than league matches (seven). In many ways the Israeli is the managerial Sisyphus, condemned to toil away in laborious futility at the foot of the Premier League table. When he realised there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn, he became free to comprehend the absurdity of his situation and has reached a state of contented acceptance.
So, how did Sullivan and Gold ever fall for this three-card trick? How on earth did they get suckered into it by agents Pini Zahavi and Barry Silkman? Howard asks. Surely, they couldn't have been so naive to sign him just because he was some sort of 'mate'? Most people think that is the entire reason. And why, when it became apparent Grant was once again hopelessly out of his depth, did they not jettison him in January and bring in a Red Adair firefighter like, say, Sam Allardyce?
For his part, Gold insists there are no plans to discuss Grant's future at the club until the end of the season. The Hammers are keen to ensure that there are no distractions as they enter a make-or-break stage of the campaign, with their Premier League status still hanging in the balance. It is the board’s wish to reflect on the campaign as a whole over the summer. "We will sit down at the end of the season as we always do with our managers and we will take it from there," he told Sky Sports News. "If you speak to Avram, he will say exactly the same thing. He's just focused on these two games."
On the Hammers' chances of taking enough from those games to see them safe, Gold said: "We're not going to Manchester United, we're not going to Arsenal. We all fear the top clubs and rightly so because they're miles ahead of everybody else. It's a level playing field and we go to Wigan with optimism and determination to win the game." Should that optimism prove unfounded, relegation will spark a fire-sale to plug the £40m hole Sullivan believes Championship football next season would leave. Even a player of the calibre of Scott Parker, states Howard, would be offloaded for a sum nowhere near his true value as other clubs take advantage of West Ham's desperate state.
The man himself, of course, was picking up the Football Writers' Association's award last night in recognition of his performances this season. Grant believes it sends an important message to the footballing world. "I am very pleased that the members of the Football Writers' Association have chosen to honour Scott Parker," he said. "Not just because I think he deserves it, but because it sends a very important message. People assume players in teams at the top of the league are all winners. It is not true. When you are surrounded by quality and confidence is high, it is easier to reach a good level of performance. You only see the true character of a person in times of difficulty. And, as you may have noticed, we at West Ham have faced a lot challenges right from the start of the season. What Scott has done for us as a footballer and as a person is great. It is harder and harder to find players like him in the modern game, men who are professional unconditionally, no matter the situation, who do not become moody and sulk."
While West Ham have struggled this campaign, Parker has been pushing his own rock up that mountain. With no respite and no sense that what he was doing had any meaning, he shone thanks to his commitment to the cause. Grant added: "Scott's mentality is perfect. But we should not forget that he is an excellent footballer. He is a modern midfielder. He defends, he makes a block, he wins the ball. He is determined, his movement is excellent and he scores important goals inside and outside the box. I am glad that his quality has been recognised by Fabio Capello, as well as by the football writers. I always say to young players that they must be careful when they chose who to take as examples. I can think of no-one better than Scott Parker."