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West Ham + Avram Grant = Champions League?

COS contributor Jamie Clarke comes up with a mathematical formula that will no doubt please the Upton Park faithful.

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Sports News - May 07, 2010

With the formalities of Gianfranco Zola’s sacking over there has been little talk concerning the vacant post at West Ham. Such quiet noise concerning a premier league management post in the lull between the domestic season and the world cup implies that Avram Grant will be manager when Gold/Sullivan decide that Ian Holloway, for all his wisdom, shouldn’t be the man to gradually guide West Ham to Champions League football in seven years. So, with Gold and Sullivan promising the supporters a slow-track to the champions league what will Avram Grant’s job entail?

Grant is no stranger to high pressure posts, extremely important games and football stars. Drogba and company initially resented the appointment of Grant, before he eventually led them to the champions league final and and maintained Mourinho’s impeccable unbeaten record at fortress Bridge. At Portsmouth, Grant found time to carve a cup run out of a season of financial meltdown, even allegedly fitting in a few massages if you are to believe all the stories. The point I am making is that Grant has real calibre in the English game and a knack for uniting a squad. He has worked at the top to the bottom, but how is he going to fare in the middle?

West Ham United finished 17th this season and Zola somehow managed to gain sympathy when he was sacked. Let us not forget that this side finished on thirty-five points, seven short of Glenn Roeder’s haul. Zola, despite being the nice guy and attempting to play fluent football, is not cut out for the pressure of the premiership; yet. So Grant has to, at least, furnish a squad capable of securing a mid-table, or better, top ten finish this season. West Ham have flirted too heavily with relegation recently for a side that finished in the top five under Harry and have consistently produced top quality academy products (there’s no need to list them, they speak for themselves.) In order to secure a mid-tableplace Grant will have to invest in some firepower and keep the english spine of the team: Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Scott Parker. Cole could also fit snugly into a good premier league side, although im sure the moneymen at West Ham may want to cash in on the tempermental ‘purple patch’striker with Villa sniffing around. The big target is Henry, and whilst I see the potential I also envisage Ljungberg-scenario, £75,000 a week can only be paid if Henry genuinely has the hunger and passion needed to bring success to Upton Park. I don’t think that he has that, considering before the West Ham’s interest Henry was bound for the states, following a production line of glittering careers left to smoulder across the big pond. Even if Henry doesn’t have the passion for West Ham that he would have had for Arsenal it wouldn’t matter, if he had the passion to grab a swansong place in France’s 2012 European Championship then he’d play football at Upton Park. Gold and Sullivan need to ensure that Henry’s mind is still focused on the game before shelling out such cash. If his mind is elsewhere, their investment has to be to.

Meanwhile, Grant must then assemble the nuts and bolts that would work around the English core of West Ham United. With Parker roaming across midfield single-handedly West Ham managed to survive in the division above Hull, Burnley and Portsmouth, but more is needed. Grant is famous for giving youngsters a chance, even angering former West Ham playmaker Eyal Berkovic during his spell in charge of Israel’s national team. Berkovic was left out for new blood, so Grant may well be eyeing up West Ham’s academy products and he will hopefully revitalise Mark Noble’s career. If all else fails, he could try and pinch Jamie O’Hara from Tottenham, although the centre of midfield seems all but there at West Ham. They just need the right man to make it work. Wingers could be added to the team, however the current dynamics of the squad lean towards a centralised passing game and no real wingers of sorts are present in the squad. This could be a new direction for Grant.

The defence is also in need of a revamp around the trusty Green and Upson and again Grant could opt to blood promising youngster James Tomkins alongside Upson, with Faubert and Ilunga consistent and reliable wing backs. Once the team is stable Avram Grant must wade through the players floating around from the previous eras of Zola, Curbishley and the calamitous Icelandic administration. Spector, Boa Morte, Diamanti, Mido, McCarthy, Franco, Ilan and Kovac all have their doubters at this level. And then there’s the age old Kieron Dyer problem. If Grant is going to take the job, there is a lot of excess baggage.

The vacancy, however, does not consist entirely of football butchery and West Ham, under the passionate Gold and obstinate Sullivan, have the potential, as they always have, to really become a Premiership force. All Grant has to do is stablise what used to be a very well run ship. Then, if Gold and Sullivan want the champions league dream then they will back it with money and use all their savvy know-how to secure for their beloved east end club an enduring legacy; the olympic stadium. If they can secure a new stadium relatively cheaply then West Ham could really emerge as a challenging force, and Avram Grant seems to be adept enough to slowly build the Olympic Park into an European fortress for the Hammers. But then again, I’m dreaming now and every hammers fan knows what happens when we start doing that…

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