Analysis: Under pressure, Grant has a visit to Hull to look forward to

Grant has to revive the team's Premier League fortunes after no goals and two losses in three matches.

September 25, 2007 06:09
3 minute read.
Analysis: Under pressure, Grant has a visit to Hull to look forward to

avram grant 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])


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Avraham Grant has only just settled into the Chelsea hot seat vacated by Jose Mourinho. He must wonder how long he'll be there. The former Israel coach watched the Blues lose his first game in charge - 2-0 to rival Manchester United - to slide to sixth in the Premier League. During Sunday's game at Old Trafford, Grant heard the Chelsea fans chant the names of Mourinho and his assistant, Steve Clarke, who was sitting beside him. Not so much as an "Avram, give us a wave" from the Blues faithful, many of whom don't know why he joined the club in the first place. Then there's the little matter that he doesn't hold a UEFA Pro License to manage in the Premier League, despite his experience in charge of Israel. Sightings of Netherlands coach Marco van Basten sitting behind owner Roman Abramovich at Old Trafford may not add to Grant's security at Chelsea, either. Neither will the fact that the Russian met former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson at the game. The Swede is now in charge of Manchester City. There is also speculation that the Israeli, brought in as one of Chelsea's backup coaching staff in July, is only keeping the seat warm for another of the owner's favorites, Russia coach Guus Hiddink. If that's not enough to worry him, there are rumors that Abramovich is taking a hands-on role with the players instead of being content to occasionally open his checkbook. Abramovich was reportedly seen telling midfielder Michael Essien off about his performance after last week's limp 1-1 draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League while Mourinho, soon to leave the club, was holding his post-game news conference. But Abramovich doesn't speak English well enough to explain his thoughts to Essien face-to-face. The significance of that meeting, according to Sunday's edition of The Observer, was that his words were translated by Andriy Shevchenko, the Ukraine striker Abramovich hired from AC Milan apparently against Mourinho's wishes. Fancy that: Shevchenko, the £31 million translator. The Observer speculated that Shevchenko is Abramovich's route to the players. Mourinho wouldn't stand for that. Grant might, and that's why he's there. While there seems no sign yet of Abramovich sitting next to Grant on the bench for some kind of "Abram-Avram" linkup, the Israeli appears to have a tough job convincing the media and skeptical Chelsea fans that he is the man to maintain Mourinho's successes at Stamford Bridge. "I know everybody said I don't have experience in the English league, don't have experience as a coach," he said. "But I have been here many, many times in training, in games. I don't see any problems but I do understand the doubts. "It is not the first time somebody came and nobody knew anything about him." Mourinho, by contrast, was enjoying spectacular fame when he moved to Stamford Bridge. He had just led FC Porto to a Champions League title, and that was a season after he brought the team a UEFA Cup victory to go with back-to-back Portuguese league championships. Mourinho guided the Blues to their first domestic league championship in 50 years, followed it up with another, and also captured the League and FA Cups. Although he led Chelsea to two Champions League semifinals, that wasn't good enough for Abramovich, who badly wants Europe's most prestigious title so he can hold his head up alongside the owners of Europe's other powerhouses. That means Grant, assuming he is to stay in charge of the team, has one of the toughest jobs in the game. He has to revive the team's Premier League fortunes after no goals and two losses in three matches. And he must capture Champions League victories over Valencia and Schalke to guide Chelsea toward the knockout phase. "It is not important what I say now," Grant said soon after taking over from Mourinho. "It is important what we are going to do on the pitch. I can say many things but I need to show it on the pitch." Grant will be in charge again when Chelsea goes to low-key Hull on Wednesday in the League Cup, just three days after a Premier League game against Manchester United at 76,000-seat Old Trafford. Chelsea fans may see a parallel here. A visit to Hull after Manchester United is a little like Grant following Mourinho.

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