No points No money….
‘I had more money to spend at Portsmouth’
No points, no money. It is becoming a recurring theme for Avram Grant, who oversaw Portsmouth’s demise as a Premier League club and is now trying to ensure he does not do the same thing at West Ham United.
So far, it has not gone well. Grant’s men have lost 3-0 away to managerless Aston Villa, 3-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers and 3-0 away to Manchester United, a record of no points, one goal, and nine conceded. Bottom of the table, looking up at the rest of the division, a familiar view for the softly-spoken former Israel national team coach.
The last team to start a Premier League season with three straight defeats was Portsmouth 12 months ago, and Grant does not need reminding how that ended up. To make matters worse Grant welcomes his other former club Chelsea today, who are playing with all the swagger you might expect of Double-winners. Lose today, and it will be the worst start in the Hammers’ long history.
The financial situation at West Ham is nowhere near as bad as it was at Portsmouth, but Grant admitted yesterday he had not been given as much money as he had been led to believe. In fact, he said he had more money for players at Portsmouth.
Grant said: “The financial situation [at West Ham], I knew it before. I thought that we can spend maybe more, but we know the situation. At Portsmouth I had more money to spend, maybe £5m even £6m. But here we couldn’t do it.”
Grant is finding it tougher than he expected. He took over as Gianfranco Zola’s successor in the summer in the belief that there would be a major overhaul of the playing squad with everyone except Scott Parker put up for sale and money made available for a few new, young faces. Instead he has only been able to tinker at the fringes of the squad while only four players have been shipped out. “It’s not a secret that we wanted to do more things but also we need to remember that the financial situation is a problem,” Grant said. “I think we know the situation before. More or less.”
He admitted finding it hard to see the millions spent by the likes of Stoke City, Sunderland and Birmingham City this summer. “I’ll be honest and I can tell you that I wish I had the same money that they had. I think with this money we could do a lot and we could improve a lot the team. But the situation is that we could not afford it here, so this is the situation and I cannot do nothing about this,” he said.
Friends say Grant will not be bothered by the recent rumours that he is fighting to keep his job already. Not so long ago West Ham used to be synonymous with stability. Five full-time managers in the first 94 years of the club demonstrated a remarkable level of loyalty and consistency.
That, like pretty much everything else in football, has all changed in the past decade. Grant is the sixth manager since 2001, and the seventh may not be too far away if he cannot turn around results pretty quickly, although the club’s co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan do have a history of sticking by their managers, despite their treatment of Zola last season.
Grant’s uneviable task is made all the harder by the outspoken tendencies of the aforementioned Gold and Sullivan. The latter was in full flow last weekend, with an attack on several of the foreign players at Upton Park, claiming they “couldn’t be bothered”.
Sullivan was not naming names, but the likes of Radoslav Kovac, Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, Luis Boa Morte, Valon Behrami and Jonathan Spector might have felt their ears burning. What’s more, all eight of the new signings made by West Ham this past summer, none of them big names for big money, are foreigners.
“It doesn’t help me and it doesn’t bother me. He’s the chairman and if he wants to do something he can do it, as long as it doesn’t hurt the team. And I don’t think he hurt the team, for the moment,” Grant said.
Grant may give debuts to new recruits Victor Obinna and Lars Jacobsen today, while Behrami could get his first game of the season in what will surely be a damage limitation exercise.
Bookies were yesterday offering odds of 10-1 on a West Ham victory today. One thing in the Hammers’ favour is that Grant has shown in the past he is at his best when the odds are stacked against him.