By ALLON SINAI
Former England international and Aston Villa, Derby CountyÂ and QPR manager John Gregory was named as the new coach of Ahi Nazareth on Tuesday in a shock appointment by the team currently placed rock-bottom of the Israeli Premier League.
Eli Mahpud left the club on Tuesday morning after the team lost nine of its first 12 matches and was replaced immediately by a far more illustrious and colorful name.
"I'm very happy to be here," Gregory said in an interview with radio station 103FM. "I've always wanted to coach in Israel and I was offered this position last year but I refused because I had commitments in London. However, I got the opportunity once more and I took it."
The 55-year-old was one of England's most promising coaches at the turn of the decade, but struggles on - and especially off - the field, have seen him coach for just one season in more than six years.
The fact that even Nazareth was only willing to hand him a contract until the end season says it all.
In December 2002, the English FA opened an investigation into some of Gregory's foreign signings at Villa, believed to be Bosko Balaban, Ozalan Alpay and Juan Pablo Angel.
Three months later, Gregory was suspended before being sacked from his position as Derby County manager, with an official statement from the club reading: "As has been widely reported recently, serious allegations have been made against John Gregory.
"These allegations have had a major adverse effect on the club and, in the light of these and in order to expedite a thorough, fair and objective investigation, the club has decided to suspend John Gregory while the investigation is undertaken."
Gregory subsequently sued Derby before eventually dropping his High Court action against the Rams after settling for a sum widely reported to be close to Â£1 million.
In September 2006, he was handed another chance by QPR, but lasted just one year at the London club and has since been out of coaching.
Gregory held his first training session at Nazareth on Tuesday and faces Betar Jerusalem in his first match at the helm on Saturday.
"People will say I'm crazy, but the English like an underdog and like a challenge," Gregory said. "The team is in a very difficult situation, but we want to stay in the league. There is plenty of work to be done, but I'm really happy to be connected with this club and I'm looking forward to the next six months."
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