Premier League owners should show loyalty to managers

— Timothy Long contributed with this report

The long ordeal over the future of Avram Grant as manager of West Ham United is apparently over, though I am inclined to note that if he remains in the post until summer I would be pleasantly surprised.

I am a huge believer that managers should be given time – a whole season as an absolute minimum. As pleased as I am to see the West Ham board end months of speculation by backing their manager, it’s not difficult to see what really happened here.


Avram Grant has faced fierce speculation about his future at several clubs over the past few years, including during his time at Chelsea. Photo: Mark Freeman

It’s a sad day for a football club when its board of directors only make the decision to publicise their apparent support for the manager because someone else turns them down.

Rather like the boy who fancies the prettiest girl in school but goes out with one of the other girls, scared to end things due to a fear of ending up alone, he clings on to what he has, inconsiderately waiting for something better to come along.

David Sullivan and David Gold have thoughtlessly failed to reassure Avram Grant for much of their relationship, and, while Martin O’Neill isn’t a pretty girl, he is certainly a top football manager and somebody it seems these boys have been chasing.

It would be easy to think there is nothing wrong with looking to replace the manager of a team lying bottom of the league. Looking a little deeper reveals that, although not the most attractive, Avram is a manager with whom West Ham can have a long, stable and secure future.

Grant is a better manager than most give him credit for. After Jose Mourinho’s departure from Chelsea in September 2007, Grant, under difficult circumstances, led Chelsea to the Champions League final for the first and only time in the club’s history.

If it hadn’t have been for the most unfortunate slip in the history of football, he would have won the European Cup and gone down in Chelsea folklore as a hero. The same season he led Chelsea to the League Cup final and only missed out on the league title on the final day of the season.

The job he did at Portsmouth last season, with the club in turmoil, was also admirable.

In a season when Fratton Park was in such a chaotic state – with the club selling all of its top players and often unable to pay remaining players wages – Grant miraculously led them to the FA Cup final, which, on footballing merits, should have qualified them for Europe.

This season at Upton Park there are clear signs of Avram emulating his past unsung achievements – West Ham have only lost two of their last nine in all competitions.

With the League Cup semi-final first leg win against Birmingham, Grant again has one foot in the Wembley dugout. The Hammers are still in the FA Cup and only a few points from safety in the league, despite competing with an injury torn squad and Grant dealing with being under unnecessary fear of being dumped for much of the campaign.

The league has become more compact than ever. I get the impression that over-expectant owners haven’t quite come to terms with that; they need to soon, otherwise, like experimental teenagers, relationships with managers will last no more than a month or two.

Sir Alex Ferguson has now surpassed his silver wedding anniversary with Manchester United, he knows better than anyone that the key ingredient to a successful footballing relationship is time. But, remember it took him five years to win a trophy at Old Trafford.

Modern day boards need to learn how to work as long-term partners with their managers. Sullivan and Gold need to realise they are not at school anymore, as adults, whether in business or in personal relationships, you can’t mess people around like that.

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