Israeli manager could be the man to guide Upton Park side into exciting new era.
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Premiership football in the modern day is big business, and with increasing investment from foreign owners there has been an increased impetus put on the club balance sheet rather than the team sheet. This means that there isn’t much longevity in Premiership management if your face doesn’t fit, or you don’t deliver relatively instant success. This article aims to examine the tenure of some current and ex-Premier League managers, address issues surrounding the cut-throat nature of professional football, and highlight how Avram Grant is the man to spearhead West Ham’s search for success.
Football’s popularity has never been greater and the English Premier League never stronger, with the league heralded as one of the best on the planet and our teams doing exceeding well in Europe. This success attracts investors and financial moguls who are keen to play fantasy football in real life by pumping multi-millions into clubs in the search for success and to play their part in the global game. However the investors and owners in the current day are becoming increasingly non-British, non-football men who do not understand the hardships necessary on the pitch, and training field, to achieve glory. Subsequently, managers will bear the brunt of owner’s unrealistic expectations, and a couple of bad results can turn a manager’s job from secure to non-existent. However, success and a u-turn in a team’s form and results is not an overnight process; it takes time for players to gel, tinkering of formation, positioning and tactics, and a bit of luck along the way for a good team to form. Too often however, the owners of clubs don’t give the men picking the team enough time to do their job.
A blueprint for success? Look at Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie is one of the most successful managers of all time, with his team feared across England and Europe; Ferguson has won eleven league titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions League titles in his 24 year reign at United. Despite this, United have not always been world beaters; when Ferguson was appointed in 1986 his United team finished 11th in his first season. The next year they finished as runners up to Liverpool, but the following season (1988-89) they again finished 11th. In the 1989-90 campaign United went on a terrible run of six defeats from eight games before the turn of the year, and the media called for Ferguson’s head. The Scot managed to turn the club’s fortunes around however, and the rest is history; but one must ask if in today’s cut-throat Premier League whether a manager in the same position would be given the time to turn his club into the class act Manchester United have become.
Let’s look at other budding Manchester United’s of the future – what of teams like Newcastle and Blackburn? According to the club shareholders and investors, the managerial services of Chris Hughton and Sam Allardyce were not necessary in the search for success. Newcastle found themselves in The Championship when Hughton took firstly caretaker, then full time command of the club and the young English manager led The Geordies back to the Premier League, and despite a couple of poor results prior to his dismissal, the newly promoted Newcastle were sitting in the security of mid table when Hughton’s performance was judged not to be good enough for him to remain in the job.
The case of Sam Allardyce and Blackburn is similar, but even more staggering. When Big Sam was appointed, the club was languishing in the bottom three and in real danger of becoming a Championship side. Allardyce gave the team a solidarity and in a nine game unbeaten run steered Rovers to safety; the next year Blackburn finished 10th. However Blackburn received new owners in the form of Indian company Venkateshwara Hatcheries Group in November of last year, who brought with them ambitions of breaking into the top four, an achievement that even the most ardent Blackburn fan would find unrealistic. Was Allardyce the man to get them there? Maybe, maybe not, but we will never find out as he was sacked a month after the takeover despite Blackburn sitting in mid table, and Blackburn are now are a million miles from the Champions League. My point is that both Hughton and Allardyce were building a team that could adapt and improve and worked with the limited resources they had; both teams would today be in a better position if the sacked managers were still there.
So to Avram Grant and West Ham, who over the Christmas period was undermined by the media and looked sure to be axed from the Upton Park hotseat. However, the West Ham board Sullivan, Gold et al, to their credit have stuck with the Israeli (whether Martin O’Neill was approached is irrelevant and unproved) and results have improved, they are off the bottom, through to the fifth round of the FA Cup and have the Olympic Stadium to look forward to moving to in the near future. Despite still not being out of the relegation woods, things are looking up for West Ham. The players now have had time to adjust to Grant’s managerial style, tactics and approach and don’t have to start from scratch again as they would had he been replaced. The fact that the uncertainty has been lifted also means the players can stop speculating whether the gaffer will be at training in the morning, and can get on with what they are paid to do, with a firm idea of how Grant wants them to do it. This continuity will be the reason that West Ham will avoid relegation, whereas had they replaced Grant, they surely would be playing in The Championship next season.
If, and when West Ham avoid the drop, if the board back Avram Grant to bring in the players he wants in the summer, an exciting new era could be in the offing for West Ham, with Avram Grant at the helm. Give managers a chance to build a team; Manchester wasn’t built in a day.
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