Roger Alton Roger Alton

Spectator Sport | 10 May 2008

Good luck, Avram!

The infinite capacity of men to talk utter balls about football should never amaze, but the level of spiteful twaddle spouted about Chelsea’s Avram Grant, which started at volume 11, is laughable. This decent, courteous, humorous and intensely honourable man was put in charge of a team of highly gifted, absurdly paid, over-ego’d individuals who were capable of playing profoundly tedious football and has turned them into what is easily right now the most attractive team in the Premiership. But still fans whine and experts carp. God, it’s awful stuff.

So why isn’t Avram Grant getting the respect, admiration and, er, love he deserves? It is baffling: here are Chelsea running down to the finishing line neck and neck with Manchester United; there hasn’t been a Premiership finish like it ever. Then the same two teams go head-to-head again in Russia in a sort of Groundhog Day for the Champions League final in a couple of weeks. It is quite simply a stunning achievement. So what’s wrong? Is there a bit of anti-Semitism going on here? Maybe — there has always been an unpleasant strain of it running through English, and especially London life. And certainly Roman Abramovich’s Jewishness is every bit as important to the Chelsea owner as his Russian-ness, and Grant and he have long been close friends.

Is it just that he isn’t Mourinho? Well again, maybe. He doesn’t wear a cashmere coat like Jose, nor arch an eyebrow; but he is much more likeable. He took over Mourinho’s squad, then fifth, has pulled them to the joint leadership of the Premiership, and taken them past Liverpool into the European final, something Jose never did. And of course he doesn’t feed the media like Mourinho did.

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