As we sat down and started to discuss the items on the agenda at Sunday’s Fans Forum, we were very surprised to see someone walk in that no-one expected to see there; Avram Grant.
This is the official transcript of the questions put to Avram and the answers he gave. A write up of the Fans Forum and also the official minutes of the rest of the meeting will follow within the next few days.Club: We had a chat with Avram Grant (AG) on Friday and he kindly agreed to come along to the Forum on a match day for around fifteen minutes to answer any questions. We would request that Forum members wait for the formal minutes to be circulated before any details are released on external media, to ensure accuracy.
This is the first time one of our managers has attended a Forum meeting.
Fans: Thank you for taking the time to come to the Forum today.
AG: My pleasure, please ask any questions. Although I was a very good footballer I was not a great player so I finished at 18. So I come as a supporter. I know what it’s like to be one.
Fans: What is the atmosphere like amongst the players?
AG: It is very good, and has been from the beginning, though they were in shock on the first day. You can be proud of them and their commitment to the team. I know there are stories in the papers but I am on the inside, I didn’t have to speak to them about it. I like to see how they behave, not what is written in the papers, and they are 100% committed to the team. It is said that the Club is bigger than the players and this is true; if the players think like this then they give more.
Fans: There are reports in the media of Drogba being dissatisfied. What can fans expect of him?
AG: You can see how he behaves in training and in matches. He gives 100%, though of course he won’t score in every match. He is fighting well and playing well, being fully committed. It’s not always as it says in the papers. It says from a few years ago that he wants to leave, but I believe that is from his agent and not him. There is no problem with him.
Fans: Was it a shock to you how fast events moved when you were asked to take over?
AG: I haven’t had time to think about it as we had to play Man United straight away. It was a good game, though we had a problem with the referee. You know I have coached since I was 18, but I took over here in the middle of the season. We have tried to do things step by step; trying to win but follow the new style of the team. I think it’s going well, though it could, of course, be better. As a coach or manager you want to have time for preparation, which I didn’t have.
Fans: Are you concerned with losing the African players in January?
AG: Of course; it’s a big problem. I don’t know why the Euros are played in the summer yet the African Cup is played during the season, when they know most top African players play in the European leagues. They are four good players, so this is one of the reasons we have a big squad. Maybe if we find someone good for Chelsea, we will take him in January.
Fans: There have been a lot of changes at the Club recently. What role do you expect the supporters to play?
AG: As I said, I was a supporter originally. Here, you were supporters before I was here, and will be after I leave. They are the main key. You live for the supporters and like them. It’s a love affair; sometimes up and sometimes down. I am very happy with the supporters. The atmosphere at the stadium has been very good. The away game was amazing at Valencia. It was a time when we needed them to support us. You can see how it helped the team…it’s a love affair!
Fans: Can you explain to us how the team of yourself, Steve Clarke and Henk Ten Cate split their responsibilities?
AG: Football has changed a lot in the last ten years and will continue to do so. It will become more personal for each player, to maximise their abilities. I take pleasure not only in winning matches, but in seeing players develop.
You need staff to change the message as well. When I came here I asked for a British coach. We have Steve Clarke who is very, very good. He was quiet in the last few years, but is doing the job very well, and likes the Club very much. I also wanted someone from the European mainland, as many players come from there, and I like the different ideas from there. Of course, I say what style I want.
We also want a top fitness coach. But I won’t take anyone for that who isn’t top quality, and am still looking.
Fans: How do the coaches work together? Are they equal?
AG: Yes, they are equal but each have their roles. I would need over an hour to explain! They both work on the pitch, and know what our tactical targets are. The training methods are part of it.
Fans: Do you have different ways of training with the different coaches?
AG: No, we bring the elements together.
Fans: What would be a successful season for you?
AG: At a big club we want to fight for all the trophies. I know we missed a lot of points at the start and it isn’t easy to chase from there, but we are doing a good job. We may not keep getting points as we have been non-stop recently, but we will be near the top. Then anything is possible.
It’s also important that we have a good base for the style of the team for the future.
Fans: Where would you like to see improvements in the squad?
AG: I am very happy with the squad but you always look to improve. We always look at possible players, such as those who are more creative. It’s not easy to find someone for a top club, and we are demanding on our players. Any player who can improve our squad is considered.
Fans: What do you think the score will be today?
AG: If I knew I would be very rich! One player said it’s a problem to win 6-0 as everyone now expects it all the time!
Fans: If you could have one player free of charge who would it be?
AG: There is no one like this…the players I want are far from being available for free!
Fans: Thanks again for attending.
Club: Maybe we can try and organise it again.