I think it’s about time that someone stood up for Chelsea boss Avram Grant and as there doesn’t appear to be a lengthy queue, I will do it for him. I am not suggesting setting up an Appreciation Society, especially being a Liverpool fan in the midst of a Champions League semi-final against the Stamford Bridge club, but I believe it’s time for the British press to show him some respect. When he took over from Jose Mourinho last September, I remember the looks of amazement from some of the country’s top sport writers.
No-one in the press conference could have dreamt that he would do as well as he has, and rarely with a full-strength team. But from the coverage and abuse he receives one would have thought that the blues are in the bottom half of the table or, worst still, in relegation turmoil. But wait, unless I am mistaken, despite him being unable to call on the club’s big name stars for a large chunk of the season for injuries or unavailability, he approaches the final month of the season challenging for the two most significant pieces of silverware — the Champions League and the Premier League.
Don’t forget he has lost just twice in 29 league games, an impressive return even by Sir Alex Ferguson’s standards. Granted (excuse the pun), he is not everyone’s cup of tea and, like many Israelis he keeps his cards close to his chest, but I believe the nationals have taken their abuse too far. Following last week’s victory at Everton, which took Chelsea to within two points of leaders Manchester United, The Sun’s chief sports writer Steve Howard started his match analysis with the following: Average Grant. Average Grump. The Turtle. Froggie. Larry Grayson. Name calling is bullying and with all the problems British society is experiencing today, I do not think it sets the right example. It’s simply irresponsible, immature and petty.
Instead of reflecting on a hard earned victory, the paper decided to give a blow-by-blow account, focusing on Grant’s every movement. When Grant says something, it is often taken out of context and when he doesn’t say anything it somehow makes even more of a headline. I just don’t get it. Like Mourinho, he has a steely determination but often keeps his feelings to himself. He has clearly been hurt by the barrage of abuse and appears to be in a lose-lose situation unless he can win a piece of silverware. Evening Standard columnist David Mellor has also called for Grant’s head but the Israeli continues to answer his critics in the best possible way: with results, not words.
Admittedly, flair and sexy football have not come with his early promises but just look where it’s got Arsenal this season. The coverage rebounds on to the terraces with the fans also unhappy with Chelsea’s choice to replace the Special One. Grant is definitely not their special one and I have never heard a ground as quiet as I did when watching the recent match against Wigan. I find it incredible that the papers continue to focus on Grant. From day one, they have been out to get him and it appears their campaign will not cease until he is removed.
Elsewhere, London Maccabi Lions A striker Lee Bibring looks set to be ruled out for the season after tearing ankle ligaments during the JC Cyril Anekstein Cup final win over Chigwell Athletic B. I have been asked to write an article for the Rosh Hashanah edition of the JFS Alumni magazine and am keen to hear from any ex-pupils who have stories of sporting excellence.