Honor In Defeat – Avram Grant and Portsmouth FC

Avram, You're The Man.

Today’s FA Cup Final came to an end, with this year’s league champions Chelsea edging recently relegated Portsmouth FC by a Didier Drogba goal to nil.

While the game was dominated by Chelsea, Pompey did their best to frustrate the champions, and David James had an absolute blinder, which will serve him well with the World Cup just weeks away. Pompey had the chance to go one-nil up from the penalty spot, but Kevin Prince Boateng crumpled under the pressure of the Cup Final and Petr Cech made the save. Chelsea went on to hit the woodwork on five different occasions, and even had the chance to score from the penalty spot themselves, but Frank Lampard dragged his wide. The break for Chelsea came through this year’s Premier League Golden Boot winner, Didier Drogba, with a fantastic freekick that smashed the bar before finding the back of the net.

The real story is the legacy of Avram Grant and his time in England, and how well he has done in such a short time at both Chelsea and now Portsmouth.

Avram Grant led Chelsea in 2008 to the final of the Carling Cup, a title race with Manchester United that went down to the last day, and the Champions League final, which Chelsea were set win, if not for a John Terry penalty miss. For all of his efforts, he was sacked by Roman Abramovich, a reported close friend of his.

After this disappointment, Avram Grant was offered the position of Director of Football at Portsmouth, potentially to line him up for the managerial position should Paul Hart fail to steer Portsmouth clear of the relegation zone. Paul Hart did fail, although to be fair to Paul Hart the failure of the team to deliver any kind of promising results was probably not down to him. He was sacked, though, and Avram Grant took over as manager in November of 2009. During his tenure as manager, Portsmouth have suffered a point deduction in the league because of their financial meltdown, and have looked relegated since October, but Avram Grant has seen them battle so well in every game they’ve played, which has brought results most obviously in the FA cup. Avram Grant took the Premier League’s most obvious relegation candidates to England’s most coveted Cup Final, and was able to motivate his players to do so well despite those players not even receiving their pay on numerous occasions this season.

Avram Grant should be congratulated for the way he has motivated Portsmouth’s players to fight and play out of their skins for the club, despite their perilous and quite disastrous position. Week in, week out, whether it be a heavy loss or an unpaid wage, Portsmouth played as if they were headed to Wembley all along.

Avram’s failure to win the FA cup will come as no surprise, as Chelsea were obvious favourites to win the tie. Avram’s side kept it respectable, despite Chelsea’s dominance, and Portsmouth fans sang on past the final whistle.

A man whose demeanor rarely changes, whether his team are high-flying or down in the dumps, and who has been labelled, ‘the grim reaper’ for his quite haunting and almost static facial expression, does certainly have the ability to instill passion into a club no matter the circumstance. Avram will most likely leave Pompey this summer, and we wish him the best of luck, wherever he ends up.

Portsmouth, on the other hand, will be saying farewell not just to their manager, but to probably their entire starting eleven come next season. Because of their dire financial situation, an overhaul of playing staff will be necessary. Portsmouth will most likely also face another heavy point deduction at the start of next season, which will most likely see them freefall out of the Championship, should this financial situation continue. Furthermore, the club could even cease to exist should an owner not step up and inject much needed capital into the club.

While the FA cup was a last chance at glory for Portsmouth, a last hurrah before the facing possible extinction, for Avram Grant is was a way to show England and the rest of Europe that he is a top manager, and that he should be given a chance at a club for more than 8 months at a time. Avram Grant, for me certainly, has proved himself as a manager who can really put his fingerprints on a club and have great success, should he be given the chance.

Congratulations to Chelsea on their historic League and Cup double, congratulations to Avram Grant for the way he impressed at Portsmouth, and good luck to Portsmouth as they literally jump out of the frying pan, and into the fire.

13 thoughts on “Honor In Defeat – Avram Grant and Portsmouth FC”

  1. nice summary, wish Avram well.

    Probably at West Ham…

    good lineup there with the likes of Noble, Cole, Green, Behrami, Parker, and others. Should achieve another cup run or perhaps a fight for mid-table rather than relegation…

  2. This was an excellent read! I totally agree with your opinions about Grant. Most didn’t expect them to hang with Chelsea today, but they had plenty of chances to win. I expect him to do really well in the future, no matter which team he manages.

  3. Well done. It amazes me how some fans are so narrow-minded that they only praise managers who win the ultimate prize. In my opinion, Grant’s performance with Portsmouth was nothing short of amazing, and a far greater feat this season than anything Carlos Ancelloti accomplished. Grant would have won with Chelsea too if given another run, and he would have won the biggest trophy of them all if Terry had not slipped. I feel for him in that he’s had some bad luck in the finals he’s reached, but a top manager no doubt. I hope he wins a big final one day in England, but in any event he should have any soccer fans ultimate respect.

  4. Dirty Pompey got what they deserved today and that was NOTHING. Proof agan that cheats never prosper and their support today at Wembley from the self styled ‘most fanatical fans in the world’ was truly truly awful. I didn’t hear a peep out of them. They belong in non-league football and the sooner they get there the better. Well done Chelsea…it was another 8-0 win in all but the result. Please go away P*mpey and never ever come back…Up The Saints!!!

    1. Didn’t hear a peep out of them? Are you deaf? It was the other blue side who hardly made noise. It was the other blue side that John Terry had to encourage to make noise as he was lifting the Cup. It was the other blue side who sat on their butts the entire match.

      What alternate reality are you living in?

  5. I’m not well-versed in all the back story on Pompey, but…

    I’ve spoken well of Portsmouth, who’ve shown themselves to be capable of putting a great many distractions behind them and playing good football this season. I’ve also been impressed with their fan base, regardless of what some troll (see post above) says.

    But isn’t Avram Grant part of the problem here? He’s been working for the team for two years, but he bears no responsibility whatsoever for the financial mess that Pompey is in? Really?

    OK, I suppose it’s possible. And I have to agree that he got a lot out of a team that was frequently overmatched and could have easily laid down and waited for this season to be over. But he was in the thick of that mess, and it doesn’t seem right that he should just be able to walk away and not bear some responsibility for what happened.

    My 2 cents. Cheers and best of luck to Pompey next season.

    1. In response to your question, no, Avram Grant had nothing to do with Pompey’s financial problems. It’s kind of like this: When the owner of a football club allocates a transfer budget, the manager of the team should be able to go out and spend that budget comfortably, without fear of putting the club in financial turmoil. The manager of Portsmouth at the time of their spending spree, when they brought in the likes of Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe, Younes Kaboul… Well, I’m sure you can guess. It was Harry Redknapp. But, the ownership situation is really where the problem was for Pompey. At first it was Thaksin Shinawatra, who was having a horrendous time on the homefront, being the Prime Minister of Thailand and all. When he left, so did his money, so Pompey looked for new ownership. They went through about 5 owners in a few weeks, and none of them really had the money they said they did. This is why the ‘fit and proper’ test put in place before owners are able to buy a Premier League club is always criticized. So no, Avram Grant would have had nothing to do with Pompey’s financial situation. Harry Redknapp wouldn’t have either, just to clear it up, because it is all down to Portsmouth ownership, and really lack thereof.

    2. Grant wasn’t hired until the start of this season, long after the financial mess was too deep a hole to dig out of. He didn’t really start working for the club until he was given the manager’s job. He didn’t have a work permit until then, which is what they were probably waiting for to fire Paul Hart.

  6. I watched the FA Cup final in the morning. Wish Portsmouth had hit the penalty, I mean it was such a lousy attempt. Chelsea has had a great year but they seemed flat and how big a deal is the FA Cup anyway?
    I think I recall Man U playing their reserves in an earlier stage.
    It’s all beyond me as a newly-minted football fanatic.

    Later on I was able to trek out to our shiny new Red Bulls Arena to watch my New York team play Seattle who have been lame so far… whereas the Bulls had 15 points in just seven matches.

    But talk about flat, our star striker Juan Pablo Angel looks sleepy… although our defense managed quite well until they let up a really lovely goal in the 87th minute.

    I tried to compare the play of the EPL sides I watched in the morning versus the MLS action. I’m no expert but I would say the midfield play seems to be a glaring difference. The MLS players don’t seem to have that awesome skill when it comes to maintaining possession of the ball with the crisp passes you see all the time in the EPL. There seems to be more, I dunno, lots of wild clearances and just hope for the best. I know EPL players are utterly elite and not to mention the La Liga teams I watch all the time. But I wonder how the Red Bulls or the LA Galaxy would fare against, say, a mid-table Football League side. I’d like to see it but not in one of the bogus friendly matches!

    1. Manchester United, as well as almost any bigger club in the Premier League, will put out a reserve side for the early stages of the FA cup because usually in the early stages of the FA cup, you’ll play against much weaker opposition. It’s still definitely a big deal, but of course you try to prioritize the Champions League, if you’re in it, and the Premier League, before the FA Cup. It’s not the Carling Cup, though. It’s still got the prestige it always did, and it’s my favorite competition.
      When you win what they call ‘The Double,’ it’s the FA Cup and Premier League. So yes, it is a big deal, but big teams will put reserve sides out if they are comfortable they can handle much weaker opposition in the earlier stages.

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