Avram Grant was appointed Director of Football at Portsmouth despite opposition from the club’s CEO Peter Storrie, the JC understands.
Reports in Israel have contradicted Storrie’s claim that manager Paul Hart will be solely responsible for team selection. Grant will select the side together with Hart and is expected to join him on the touchline although it remains unclear whether the Israeli will be involved in tomorrow’s game at Fratton Park against Spurs. Grant’s second spell at the club has been delayed by work-permit red tape.
Before confirming his return to the Premier League, Grant was linked with a move to the American MLS where he was in negotiations to manage the New York Red Bulls. But the lure of a £950,000-a-year contract and the chance of being Hart’s long-term successor was too much to resist.
According to sources close to Grant, he has returned to the top flight not for financial reasons but to prove himself as a world-class manager. He has targeted Portsmouth, where he was director of football in 2007, as the club most likely to appoint him manager. Until last week Storrie had successfully blocked his return.
Failed attempts to bring in Sven Goran Eriksson and Alan Curbishley, rather than reappoint Grant, saw Storrie eventually persuade former owner Alexandre Gaydamak first to promote Tony Adams and then Hart.
Super-agent Pini Zahavi, who engineered the latest takeover of Portsmouth by Ali Al Faraj, persuaded the Saudi Arabian that Grant is the man to lead the club. They had wanted to install Grant immediately but Storrie was opposed and used Portsmouth’s win at Wolves, after seven league defeats, to buy more time for Hart.
Storrie, who had been CEO at West Ham when Harry Redknapp was manager and who brought Redknapp with him to Portsmouth, has remained at the club since Redknapp left, and is popular with the fans. But as the Al Faraj administration takes control, and Grant is expected to be the replacement for Hart, it remains to be seen whether Storrie is prepared to stay on at Fratton Park with the Israeli in charge.
On the playing front, Grant has moved to diffuse any animosity between himself and Tal Ben Haim. The defender was transfer-listed when the pair were at Chelsea after criticising his former manager. But Grant said: “I’ve spoken to Tal several times since we both left Stamford Bridge and everything is fine between us.”
Mark Jacob, the lawyer who has been made a Portsmouth director as Al Faraj’s representative, has dismissed reports that Israeli businessmen are involved in the club’s new ownership. Speaking to the JC, he said: “My client owns 100 per cent of the company that owns Portsmouth.” When asked who would be selecting the team, he replied: “That’s for Hart and Grant to decide between them.”
A lifelong Spurs fan and author of the book, What’s the Story - Boring Glory, criticising former Spurs chairman Lord Alan Sugar, he sidestepped questions as to who he would be supporting tomorrow. “It’s a win-win situation,” he said.