Chelsea should not let Avram go, says Hansen

By Danny Caro, May 21, 2008

Liverpool legend Alan Hansen has spoken out in support of Avram Grant and says it would be unjust if he was replaced at Chelsea.

The BBC pundit feels that the Stamford Bridge job is one of the toughest in football and claims the Israeli has done an excellent job since taking over from Jose Mourinho in September.

“Chelsea are different from any other club,” he said. “If you finish close to the top in the Premier League and reach the final of the Champions League, 99 times out of 100 that will be good enough. But Chelsea are different. We saw that under Mourinho who won two league titles and was on his way. Whether Avram goes, I’m not 100 per cent sure.

“He took over at a bad time at Chelsea and steadied the ship. The only way you can tell what a manager’s like is if you’re in the dressing room, but to me, it would be harsh if he was sacked.

“As the season’s worn on, he’s become more and more confident. Again, whether or not that’s enough for him to keep his job, we’ll have to wait and see. He’s done a really good job. They were unfortunate not to win the league but were up against a really good side in Manchester United and the Champions League final will speak for itself.”

Hansen did not want to discuss media treatment or antisemitic incidents towards Grant, but he gave the thumbs-up to the Chelsea owner. “I think Roman Abramovich has been good for football. People can be cynical about the money but he’s certainly raised the bar in English football.

“If you’ve got three teams in the semi-finals of the Champions League your league must be good because no longer can you win the Premier League by being very good. I think you’ve got to be great — and that’s because of Abramovich.”

The former Scotland defender has also been impressed by Israel captain Yossi Benayoun who recently completed his first season at his former club.

“He’s a quality player with great feet and great technical ability. If he gets a run in the team and produces what we know he’s capable of, then he can add something in the final third of the pitch. I think he’s got to show that in his second season at Anfield.”

Looking ahead to the next campaign, Hansen admits that Liverpool “must strengthen the wide positions. Fernando Torres has been magnificent so if Rafa Benitez can get two or three players in the wide positions then I think Liverpool could be in business”.

Hansen, who made 434 appearances for Liverpool and won the European Cup three times, was speaking at the Rowley Lane Maccabi Recreational Trust fourth annual fundraising lunch in central London.

He recalled that ex-Nottingham Forest hard man Kenny Burns and Oxford United striker Billy Whitehurst were “two of the toughest opponents” he had come up against in his career.

Complimenting the work involved in the 50-acre Rowley Lane project which has been given the go-ahead for a floodlight G3 pitch, Hansen recalled: “The venture is going to be successful and will ultimately show people how it can be done.

“Hopefully, it will be the springboard for other organisations to do the same thing.

“When I grew up, there were no computers or Playstations. You either played football or you played football. There was nothing else to do.

“Kids don’t play as much sport as when I was a youngster and I think that this is taking its toll on society. When I was at school, people were encouraged to play sport, but now I think it’s the opposite. ”

Last updated: 2:59pm, May 23 2008