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.