Avram Grant: back him or sack him

by admin

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Just when you thought Newcastle United had cornered the market in mishandling a managerial switch, West Ham’s owners look set to give Mike Ashley a run for his money. For weeks Hammers’ boss Avram Grant has been a dead man walking waiting for the axe to fall after securing just four wins all season, leaving the club languishing at the foot of the table.

Speculation at the weekend suggested the club’s owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, would unveil ex-Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill as Grant’s successor after West Ham’s encounter with Arsenal at Upton Park. This in turn led to a farcical
situation: Grant orchestrating a Hammers performance from the dugout in the full knowledge that, win or lose, he was collecting his P45 after the final whistle.

However, Grant’s sacking and O’Neil’s appointment never materialised, despite a comprehensive three-nil defeat at the hands of the Hammers’ London rivals. The error-ridden debut of defender Wayne Bridge, on loan from Manchester City with his 90,000-a-week wages, compounded West Ham’s problems. It begs the question: who brought him to the club? Was it Grant, the owners or O’Neill? Nevertheless, It now appears Grant has been afforded a stay of execution with reports surfacing that O’Neill was unhappy over him being prematurely named as Grant’s heir apparent.

You can see why the owners were keen on O’Neil, who has been jobless since he quit Villa on the eve of this season. The Irishman is an exuberant and motivational manager who would have relished the challenge of safeguarding the Hammers’ status in England’s premier division. He is the antithesis of Grant. The Israeli – likened to Danger Mouse’s archenemy Baron Greenback – doesn’t inspire much confidence with his dour demeanor and uninspiring rhetoric. If he is sacked, however, a rare small smile could creep across his stony face when he is awarded compensation, which could amount to £4 million.

For the time being, West Ham could soldier on with Grant and hope he jumps before he is pushed, meaning they wouldn’t have to pay him a penny. Another option would be to replace him with out-of-work Sam Allardyce – an experienced manager who knows a thing or two about surviving relegation dogfights. West Ham are in a precarious position that needs decisive action or Championship football will become a reality. But although they are propping up the league, it is incredibly tight down there and a couple of positive results could see the Hammers leapfrog their relegation rivals. In the coming weeks they face Everton (A), Birmingham (H) and West Brom (A). The Birmingham game will be key. Now is the time for West Ham’s business-astute owners to either stick or twist with Grant and prove that Mike Ashley really is in a league of his own.

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