‘Race hate keeping Grant out of Premier League’

By Simon Griver, December 10, 2008

Eyal Berkovic, one of Avram Grant’s biggest enemies, believes that antisemitism has prevented the former Chelsea boss from returning to management in England.

Sacked by the Blues in May after taking them to the club’s first-ever Champions League final and second in the league, Grant has not received a single offer from an English club.

Last month Grant told the JC that he wanted to return to England and that everybody would be surprised by his next job. But the only offers he has received were from Croatia’s Hadjuk Split and Greece’s Asteria Tripolis, teams he would have been overqualified to manage even before he was appointed to succeed Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

The Israeli has not even been in the frame as posts have become available this season at Spurs, Sunderland, Newcastle, West Ham, QPR and Watford. Fan-power persuaded Portsmouth owner Sasha Gaydamak, a close friend of Grant, to opt for Tony Adams.

Berkovic who reiterated his hatred for Grant after being dropped by him for Israel’s 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, said: “Grant has been harmed by antisemitism in England. You especially feel the hostility in the press. Even when John Hartson kicked me in the face the press blamed me. He was my best friend at the club but that morning he came in drunk. What a disgusting guy.”

Berkovic led a chorus of derision when Grant was appointed by Chelsea in 2007 but now admits he was wrong. “He succeeded at Chelsea and showed he was suited to that level. But they were looking for a brand name, somebody with a rich past and personality that everybody knew and not somebody from Israel. I’ll be surprised if another Israeli coach takes charge of a club at that level for a hundred years.”

Despite his praise of Grant’s management skills, Berkovic disdain for the former Chelsea boss runs deep. “Grant and I were friends. He would visit me in England and eat and sleep in my house and be driven around by my chauffeur. But he betrayed me and I will never forgive him.”

Berkovic, who turned down the chance to become coach of the Israel Under 17 team in order to run his own youth football school in Haifa, staked his claim for the national job. “I would give up everything to be manager of Israel,” he added.

“I’m waiting for the day that there will be a chairman of the Israel Football Association who will have the courage to give me the job.”

Last updated: 5:51pm, December 11 2008