If there was ever a one single hard act to follow in football; Jose Mourinho at Chelsea was the one. Three years of unparalleled success on the field, a media darling, massively loyal players and an adoring support from the fans, Superman himself would have found it difficult to follow in his steps.
Enter charisma-free Avram Grant, who starts with a loss at Old Trafford and two mind numbingly boring matches against Fulham and Bolton. So what does Grant do? He goes on Sky and promises the fans spectacular, entertaining football that will all make us forget our departed hero.
In one fell swoop he alienated his playing and coaching staff and raised fans’ expectations a couple of notches. By agreeing with the wrongly held notion in the press that Chelsea were boring under Jose’, the success of a hugely talented bunch of players was diminished as they were told by their new boss that their achievements of the past three years were tainted. I think that from day one the players have been against Grant. It was not like the words were coming out of the mouth of someone known for producing winning, entertaining teams. Or some sort of track record at a big club. They were coming out of the mouth of someone the players had never heard of prior to his appointment as Director of Football at Chelsea.
With the fans it was a bit different. We are a gullible bunch and are ready to give anyone associated with Chelsea a fair crack of the whip. But after every yawn inducing game he kept on repeating the same tripe. He saw free flowing football where we were seeing unmotivated players going out on the field of play without a proper game plan. He was seeing progress where we were seeing one goal leads thrown away and dropping precious points along the way. He was the one who would bring the best of Shevchenko, who has hardly kicked a ball in anger since Grant’s arrival.
Compare all this to when Jose’ arrived. Just a month after the hugely popular Claudio Ranieri was shown the door, Jose’ marched into the Bridge with the famous words “I am European Champion, I am not one out of a bottle, I am a special one.” Big words, bigger than any manager ever uttered on being appointed at a football club. But by god, did he deliver.
And that’s where all this anti-Grant feeling among us fans comes from. Jose’ came, promised and delivered. Grant wheedled his way into the manager’s job, promised and failed to deliver. I often wonder what the fans’ reaction would have been had he just shut up, got on with the job and not in any way try to denigrate his predecessor’s success.
His words a couple of days ago were the ultimate insult to every intelligent and not so intelligent Chelsea fan. He insinuated that he actually took the club forward since he took over. We were fifth and now we’re second so that’s an improvement according to Grant. What Mr. Devious fails to mention is that when he took over we were on eleven points, equal with Manchester United. Perhaps it was an indication of things to come that in his first game in charge we went three points behind United and haven’t managed to claw the deficit back. And by the way, he conveniently forgot to mention that we had two major trophies in the cabinet, which his misguided tactics handed to our opponents on a plate.
With season ticket sale time now upon us, it emerges that Grant has a £100 million transfer kitty and we are going out and buy all the best players in the world. Kaka, Messi, Van der Vaart, Ibrahimovic (according to the Italian press), David Villa, Modric, the lot. Shades of the Galacticos?
My tuppence worth of advice is, make sure we keep our best players before we go around chasing other peoples’. Because I think that Ben Haims’ outburst is just the tip of the iceberg and that there are many more disgruntled players at Chelsea, not only those who rarely get a game. If Lampard and Drogba leave, that’s about 50% of our goals for the last three seasons gone. Maybe the problem is that Roman and his cronies lack a bit of knowledge about Chelsea’s history. Maybe they don’t know that the last time we sold our star centre forward and midfielder we went on a downward spiral that took us 25 years to get out of. Sounds far fetched doesn’t it. But that’s exactly how it sounded when Ossie and Hudson left.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. When Jose’ got sacked he was approached by a host of clubs for his service and will be in charge of a big team come next season. No doubt the same will happen when Hiddink, Benitez, Laudrup, Fergie and Wenger call time on their present jobs. What price Avram getting an offer from a genuine Champions League contender when his time is up at Chelsea? Indeed what price of him getting an offer from any club in any of the big five Europan football playing nations?