The football world we live in is a strange one indeed. A club in financial crisis goes into money saving mode. They have at least ten players on over a million quid a year but they think that the best way to go about it is to sack non-playing staff on twenty grand a year. As for paying off their creditors, multi-millionaire football players come before the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, the local printer and the school who let the club use their facilities in return for what looks like a rather paltry sum of money.
At another club, new owners come in, undermine the manager to the brink of humiliation, and then sack him because of what they call a breach of contract.
And then we have charade of the annual awards for player of the year. The Premiership top scorer is overlooked in favour of the runner up, whose club also finished runner up in the league. Also overlooked, this time not only as player of the year but also from the PFA team of the year, was the midfielder who scored a record number of goals in his position. Yeah right – there are at least four midfielders better than Lampard in the Premiership. Which begs the question of whether would anyone swap Frank Lampard for Antonio Valencia, Darren Fletcher, Cesc Fabregas or James Milner, this years “top” four midfielders? I am not even sure anyone in his right mind would even consider swapping Super Frank for all four of them.
As for the manager of the year I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Apparently it is more of an achievement to sneak into the fourth place in the league, mainly because of the shortcomings of other teams, and lose an FA Cup semi final to a relegated team than do the double. It is not that Harry Redknapp managed his team on a shoestring budget either. Under Harry Spurs outspent every other team in the Premiership bar Manchester City.
But the strangest thing of all is the elevation of Avram Grant to the status of managerial greatness. I would like to lay my cards on the table before I go on. I DO NOT like Avram Grant. The minute he took his seat on the bench in the opening league match against Birmingham in season 2006/7 I knew trouble was brewing. I couldn’t see how a primadonna like Jose’ was going to put up with a chaperone on the bench. My fears were confirmed when a few weeks later Jose’ was on his way and Grant was appointed manager.
Some Grant sympathisers will say he took us into the Champions League Final, something Jose’ failed to do in three years in charge. That is an undeniable fact but it is also common knowledge that in the previous months, especially after the League Cup Final defeat to Spurs, with the team going nowhere fast it was the senior players who were dictating tactics not Grant. The bottom line is that under Avram Grant Chelsea ended up without a single trophy for the only time in the past six seasons.
This year Grant made a re-appearance at Portsmouth. In the league they were in a far from a hopeless position when he took over, although off the field things were in a mess. But it was not like he was left with eleven youth team players to fight for survival. His FA Cup Final team had eight full internationals in the starting line up. Even without the nine point penalty Pompey incurred for going into administration they would still have finished last in the Premiership, seven points from safety.
Now Grant is in pole position for the manager’s job at West Ham from a manager who had half his team sold off, humiliated in public by his chairmen (the plural is intentional) but actually managed to keep his club away from the dreaded drop.
If this season is anything to go by I will give you a few ideas as to where to put your bets for next season – West ham to go down and Avram Grant to win manager of the year. And while we’re at it, why not a tenner on Spurs not making the group stage of the Champions League?