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Grant: “I think it’s more than football…”

“It means to me a lot what’s happened here, because it’s not just football here…

“With Chelsea it was football, we wanted to (win) titles, we (reached the) Champions League Final which I will always remember, but here it’s more than football.

“It’s something I cannot describe in your language. It’s very touching… I don’t even (know) what to say because you see what’s around the club. (They) keep the atmosphere; (they) keep the spirit.

“It’s not easy, not just in football but in normal jobs also. I see the fans; I see the players and everybody that is trying to do their best for the team.

“I think it’s more than football…”

Avram Grant (13/02/2010)

Avram Grant first arrived at Portsmouth during the 2006/2007 season, acting as a ‘Technical Director’ overseeing Harry Redknapp’s side. Not much was thought of the former Israel manager. One player at the time joked, ‘He was only there to put out the cones’.

How times change…

Since returning to the club as first, a Director of football, and then manager, Grant has become Mr. Portsmouth. He understands the mentality that surrounds Portsmouth Football Club. He feels the same passion that the majority of fans do. And more importantly, he doesn’t see himself above the supporters.

If anything he bows to them, which is more than what can be said for previous managers.

He endured a difficult start as manager, his first game being at home to Manchester United, a match he would later lose 4-1. But as weeks went by fans would become more encouraged by the players’ performances. Results soon picked up with 2-0 wins against Burnley and Liverpool.

Grant was dealt with an immediate blow upon becoming manager, as the club were placed under a transfer embargo. The owners had continually failed to pay the players on time while Portsmouth still owed sufficient money to other Premier League teams.

Nevertheless, he carried on. He wouldn’t quit.

Things would get worse before they got better however.

On 23 December, a national newspaper reported that an unnamed Premier League manager had been confronted by its journalists outside an alleged brothel. The newspaper declined to name the manager, citing the risk of a privacy lawsuit. Rumours quickly spread however that the man in question was none other than Mr. Grant. The alleged brothel was only 3 miles away from Portsmouth’s temporary training ground.

It was yet another piece of unneeded drama associated with the club in what was already a hectic season. On 4 February 2010, after privacy laws were altered, the same newspaper reported that Grant was facing police questioning over the incident, with the police investigating the alleged Thai brothel in Horton Heath, Hampshire.

The national newspaper did their best to link the scandal to that of John Terry’s alleged affair, citing their link together at Chelsea. Despite this, the club continued to back Grant and rightly so in my opinion.

In a bizarre turn of events, the wife of the Israeli, Tzofit Grant, vowed to stand by her husband. She claimed that he only visited for a ‘massage’ to combat the stress he was suffering from.

Grant pictured with wife Tzofit

The TV personality said: “Considering the pressure that Avram is under at Portsmouth, I’m angry with him for not going every day to have a massage. Avram loves a massage.”

December 23 would produce more bad news for Grant. On the same day, HM Revenue and Customs filed a winding-up petition against Portsmouth at the High Court in London. The club were facing possible liquidation. The end was certainly looking near.

Grant could have easily left but he didn’t. He carried on fighting.

A full hearing was held on 10 February and the club was spared, given a stay-of-execution for a further seven days. Grant previously urged the High Court to look at the bigger picture when reconvening over the club’s unpaid tax bill.

He said: “It’s a business that belongs also to the fans so I think the court needs to think about all the picture, not part of the picture.”

This is why Grant is appreciated. He’s genuine.

His passion is undeniable. Grant was recently hit with an improper conduct charge by the Football Association. This charge came as a result of his outburst at referee Kevin Friend during Portsmouth’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland. Friend had denied two Pompey penalty appeals and nearly red-carded the wrong Pompey player.

Grant confronts Friend over penalty appeals

The 54-year-old stormed onto the pitch as the referee blew for half-time to confront the official. This man cares about the football. This man cares about the fans.

He said afterwards: “I can fight against everything but sometimes it is too much.”

The former Chelsea manager was poorly treated during the January transfer window. The club had made a number of promises and nearly all remained broken. The club’s hierarchy had conducted negotiations to sell key personnel, such as Younes Kaboul and Asmir Begovic, without his knowledge.

Once again, despite having more than enough reason to walk out, he stayed for the fans.

Grant said: “The football side is better than I thought but other things are not what I expected. The main issue is Portsmouth Football Club and the fans. I’m trying to think what is best for them.”

Despite players being sold above his head, he was given the chance to sign players on loan or on free transfers. On 26 January, the Premier League partially lifted the transfer embargo. With less than a week remaining of the transfer window, Grant was given little time to operate.

He was able to recapture Jamie O’Hara on loan however, while striker Quincy Owusu-Abeyie signed a six-month loan deal from Spartak Moscow. Defenders Ricardo Rocha and Dusko Tosic both signed six-month contracts outside of the transfer window.

At a recent press conference Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp revealed his thoughts of Portsmouth Football Club and not for the first time either.

He said: “I speak to Avram Grant about four times a day… If that was me, I wouldn’t be there now.”

That quote signifies why I hold Mr. Grant in higher regard than Mr. Redknapp. Grant is not a coward. He doesn’t shy away from duty. When times get hard, he fights on.

You don’t abandon ship Mr. Redknapp, which is exactly what you did not so long ago, despite Portsmouth supposedly being ‘your spiritual home’.

Grant feels he has a duty to help save this club. He has every reason to leave after a season of broken promises and utter turmoil.

He has not made this season about him – he has not got an egotistical streak about him. As he has said, the club is about the fans and not the manager. The important issue is the survival of the club.

Mr. Redknapp may have been the most successful Portsmouth manager of recent times, but by no means is he the most respected.

After Saturday’s 4-1 defeat of Southampton, Grant ventured out towards the Portsmouth fans and bowed before them.

Mr. Grant, I bow towards you. I only hope you stay on as manager for what little future we have left.

Grant applauds Portsmouth's travelling support at Southampton



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