Soccer: Home soil win could still sway Abramovich

Ultimately, it is not the fans who will decide whether Grant is still Chelsea manger at the start of next season.

grant 88 (photo credit: )
grant 88
(photo credit: )
Avraham Grant is in trouble, but it's not over just yet. The Chelsea gaffer looked ashen faced as he paced the touch line at the end of his side's draw with Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, knowing that his team had just lost the Premiership title to Manchester United. The domestic league holds a sentimental attachment for English soccer fans that goes beyond the pride and European respect that comes with winning the Champions League. Grant is surely well aware of this as he battles to win over fans and pundits alike. The response Chelsea supporters gave him in his speech at the end of the match was luke warm, polite clapping punctuated by the odd cheer. It was made all the more clear just how little they have warmed to the Israeli when they loudly cheered club captain John Terry as he stood up the address the crowd. But, ultimately, it is not the fans who will decide whether Grant is still Chelsea manger at the start of next season. The owner, Roman Abramovich, has this decision to make, and in an age when club owners seem to be less and less interested in the wishes of the supporters, popularity alone is a weak indicator of Grant's chances. After all, Abramovich did not balk at sacking the hugely popular Jose Mourinho earlier in the season. The Russian billionaire seemed happy enough at the end of the match, smiling and joking around as he clapped the team. But he is unlikely to be as forgiving if Grant and his team cannot overcome their northern opponents in two weeks time in Moscow. It is no secret that Abramovich has always coveted the Champions League title, to the extent that he sees the domestic league as something of a distraction. Thus it was that Mourinho's last game in charge was a desperate draw with Norwegian minnows Rosenborg in the group stages. Victory over Manchester United in the Champions League will be what counts in Abramovich's eyes and the emotion of the moment will only be heightened by the fact that the final is being held in his own country. And Chelsea has a good chance of realizing this feat, considering its generally excellent form of late. Although the team was lucky against Liverpool in the first leg of the semifinal, it was superior at Stamford Bridge. Then there is the psychological advantage of having beaten the Red Devils already in the last few weeks. If Michael Ballack can be the instrumental figure that he tends to be in the big games and he gets adequate support from Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard in midfield, the European trophy could be heading for west London for the first time in its history. This might not be enough for the fans, but the owner is a different story.