Grant emerges as clear front-runner for West Ham opening

British newspapers agreed that the Israeli coach is likely to succeed Gianfranco Zola at Upton Park.

Avram Grant claps 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Avram Grant claps 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
LONDON – West Ham intends to appoint a new manager by June 2, with Avraham Grant the apparent favorite for the role after he quit Portsmouth.
British newspapers agreed that the Israeli coach is likely to succeed Gianfranco Zola at Upton Park after he left Pompey to take “a different direction.”
West Ham said in a statement Friday that it wants to make an appointment soon to give the successful candidate a month to prepare for preseason training.
“The club is making good progress in the search for a new manager and the appointment will be made by early June,” the east London club said. “The club is in the middle of a thorough selection process which could continue over the next 12 days before being finalized.”
West Ham finished only one place above the Premier League relegation zone and fired Zola this month.
Grant guided Portsmouth’s team of loan signings and less renowned players to the FA Cup final despite relegation largely caused by the club’s crippling debts.
Few Portsmouth fans were enthused by the appointment of the former Chelsea coach in November.
He was never able to lift the team from last place in the Premier League, with the club losing nine points due to the severity of its financial difficulties, but won plaudits for improving performances and team spirit despite the continued sale of star players.
“This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to take in my football career,” Grant said. “After a lot of soul searching and under the circumstances I’m taking a different direction.
“It’s been both a difficult and complex year for us at the club, but at the same time, it’s been a wonderful and uplifting professional and personal experience.”
Several more players have left Portsmouth since last weekend’s FA Cup final loss to Chelsea, when fans again sang Grant’s name.
“Many have brought tears to my eyes and, take it from me, it takes a lot to do that,” Grant said. “I will never forget you, the loyal fans of Pompey who, without a doubt, helped me protect the team under such complex circumstances.
“There are very few teams in the world that have fans as passionate and devoted as you are. Seeing you all so proud with your heads held up high is the best reward I can receive.”