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Grant... what improvement?

Filed: Tuesday, 14th December 2010
By: Paul Walker

Surely anyone who witnessed the predictable defeat by Manchester City now knows that nothing will improve the situation under the current management.

We are bottom still, we will be bottom at Christmas and only one side in the Premier League era has escaped the drop from that position..West Brom.

Avram Grant keeps telling us we are getting better. Now he has started to talk gibberish by suggestion managerial success is not based on points and winning matches. And heís come up with another four matches we must do well in if we are to turn things around.

Weíve been here before. The Birmingham, Blackpool, West Brom and Liverpool run were earmarked as games we could pick up points from. We got three.

Now itís Blackburn and Fulham away and the home games with Everton and Wolves. Last season these four corresponding fixtures produced one point .

It is hard to see how Grant believes these games will be much different this term, because we are not getting better despite the spin being offered to the fans. This side is no better than last seasonís.

West Ham have won just six of 35 league games this year. We are not improving. We have no power in our game, no strength to match someone like Yaya Toure. We lack pace and intensity, and there is no obvious leadership on the field, although Scott Parker leads by example, at least.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce pointed out a week or so ago that we have an England goalkeeper, centre-back, midfielder and striker through the spine of our side. But that does not seem to impact on the rest of the players.

Iím not one who wants to see outpourings of passion and pride from our players, I just want to see concentration and possession. One follows the other but we continually give the ball away very cheaply.

An interesting stats from Saturdayís game shows that Manchester City made over 500 accurate passes against our 310. That sort of ratio has been the norm all season. Barcelona made over 900 passes in defeating Real Sociedad on Sunday, eat your heart out Premier League.

What was so distressing on Saturday was that for a 20 minute spell in the second-half we were playing as well as we have done for a while. But it came to nothing. We are still suffering from rubbish refereeing decisions, but we are not improving, Avram.

He keeps saying we are just a couple of wins away from mid-table. Well, Blackpool are mid-table and they are ten points ahead of us with a vastly better goal difference. We will need four wins to get anywhere near them.

And thatís the rub this season. Few would have expected the likes of Blackpool, West Brom, Bolton, Sunderland or Stoke to be where they are. I donít accept that their players are much different to ours, and they are certainly unlikely to be paid as much.

Our owners have been very patient with Grant, he is their appointment and someone they want to see succeed. They have a history of not panicking and that is creditable. Just as creditable as the ownersí beefed up commercial side, merchandising, ticket sales and all the things that must be done to improve our business model and financial position.

I have a sneaking respect for their brand of doing business. They can turn a bob or two, their marketing is pro-active, like knocking out thousands of home shirts for £10 that were found in the warehouse last season. And no, I donít really care how they make their money as long as it is legal.

Gold, Sullivan and Brady have replaced an indifferent previous regime with positive action. Prior to that we were owned by a bank who only wanted to make a profit on the asset they had acquired from an even more financially embarrassed owner.

But our current owners must surely see that nothing will improve our situation on the pitch until the manager is changed. The drive and inspiration isnít there.

Grant makes great play of being big mates with Alex Ferguson, and he only seems to get animated on the line when heís pumping hands and joking with his rival boss. Be it Fergie or Bruce.

But he is clearly a friend, not a rival. It reminds me of the cheerful relationship that Jose Mourinho had with then Watford boss Adrian Boothroyd, all backslapping and laughing on the line. Then it was pointed out to me that Mourinho is only like that with people he does not see as a rival, his behaviour with Benitez and Wenger was very different.

Nobody sees Grant as a rival and it is beginning to look like he is being patronised. Maybe Avram could tap Fergie for a couple of decent loan signings like Danny Wellbeck, Tom Cleverley, Mama Diouf or even sell us a good young defender like Craig Cathcart. All four are playing in the Premier League for our rivals.

Maybe we cannot afford to sack Grant, with his contract. But something has to be done, and soon. There are plenty of decent managers out of contract and looking for work, one - Alan Pardew - has just gone to Newcastle despite being heavily touted for a return to the Boleyn.

Martin OíNeill, Chris Hughton and Martin Jol are all available. Would any of them do a worse job than Grant is currently managing?

Personally the only good bit about Saturday was the bunch of lads I travelled down from the north with to see the game. This fixture has for several years been an excuse for a group of Man City fans Iíve known for years to make a day of it in the smoke with me and the family.

Itís been that way for a few years now. We find a dodgy Irish pub at Kings Cross, hook up with an equally great bunch of Hammers fans at London Bridge and then sink a few before the mad-cap race to Upton Park on the increasingly unreliable weekend Tube service.

Real fans, rivals but mates and itís a top day out. But on the way back we realised it may be a while before we can do it again, such is West Hamís plight.

The toast was City for the title (Iíve got no problems with that as long as itís not Chelsea, Man Utd or Spurs) and West Ham to stay up. Sadly, Iím not holding my breath about the second bit.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Tongster
07:54PM 29th Dec 2010
''I'm pleased to see this rational (we don't like managers in a turnstyle) yet critical review of Grant. It's softened my disdain for a manager that has never impressed me (how he ended up at Chelsea via Abramovic should still be scrutinised).

I think he's well out of his depth in experience and player/match management ie. the team selections. Individual changes rather than multi-changes in the line-ups would make more sense so that players could get a sense of each other in match play. Too many missed passes due to assumptions in where teammates are expected to be on the pitch. And this is Grant's fault.

More to the point - we need to break the logjam of the moment and that can happen through manager change or (unlikely for WHU) the signing of an extraordinary player. Fire the manager and get some new motivation. The psychology of the moment for players and fans is too dismal. Funnily, Grant lends to the dismal with his soporific interviews (and the droning and accent drive me crazy).

Finally, why did they ever hire him in the first place? The owners are accountable and I mean that, literally, they may be the biggest losers of all should WHU get relegated. I think they're smarter than that (or at least Newcastle and Blackburn's owners!)''

by Jack
10:39AM 17th Dec 2010
''By the way I meant Blackpool, not Birmingham!''

by Jack
05:14PM 15th Dec 2010
''Completely agree with Ken Pearce's comments - as hard as it would be to swallow, I think we should starting looking at the prospect of relegation and how we can plan for it. There are far too many overpaid and overrated players in the team (Kovac? Boa Morte? Cole? Upson?) - getting relegated would clear out the deadwood and we could start again.

We did this back in 2005/06 and finished ninth and reached the FA Cup Final in our first year back in the Prem, so there's no reason why we can't again. West Brom and Birmingham look like they're going to do it this year, so why can't we?

Grant to go - get Hughton in!''

by ssg
08:48PM 14th Dec 2010
''Spurs fan in peace. Talk of sacking Grant is well and good, but realistically, who can you get that's better? Jol wants back in the PL but I doubt he'd sign up for a relegation fight. His stock is higher than that. MON left Villa as he wasn't getting backed enough on transfers; would it be better at WH? Chris H would be OK if given a chance. I fear you may get someone awful like Big Sam.

Anyway good luck.''

by g portugal
08:24PM 14th Dec 2010
''Grant must go if we are to have any chance. It is not all his fault by any means but nonetheless he must go, as must Carlton Cole.

We cannot accept relegation and hope for the best. There is a very real chance that if we go down the club would go into administration and simply cease to exist. That is why it is imperative that the manager is changed and that everything humanly possible is done to keep us in the Premier League.''

by Ken Pearce
05:05PM 14th Dec 2010
''I agree with your comments, however would any manager be able to motivate players when the owners make comments along the lines of Avram inherited a 'Championship side'. Unfortunately injuries and poor decision making have not helped.

Why not just play the rest of the season without the England backbone, would it make that much difference, based on the way the team as a whole plays? I think not and he might get some money in the January fire sale.

The interesting thing about sides that are about to get relegated is that they never change the manager until they are in the Championship, because they need a reason to fire someone and can console themselves with the thought that the next manager will get us back into the Premier League.

The issue is that previous owners purchased the wrong players, and now the current owner are having to live with the decisions made, particularly on the contractual front.

So I have a suggestion that will cause a furore, but let it happen and plan for relegation. A lot of players will want to move, just look what happened last time. Then having got rid of a lot of expensive excess baggage, bring through the academy players, get the experience in the Championship, get the club on a good financial footing. Then move towards the Premier League.

A mad idea, perhaps, but not if you want to balance the books, and get back to the Premier League in better shape than you left it.

The only drawback with this plan is that you have to Win matches, even in the Championship, and either get in the top two, or by the play-offs.

So the rest of the season is not going to be good unless some changes are made, because even if you get some new players in the malaise in the rest will counteract the effect unless you get the players motivated.''

by kevin mousley
03:27PM 14th Dec 2010
''Top article, especially the bit about Grant and his existential definition of success! Hate the idea of a revolving door for managers but really ... this can't go on.''

by Ironsider
02:52PM 14th Dec 2010
''I am very rarely in favour of sacking our manager. I did not agree with the sackings of Redknapp, Pardew or Zola. But I have to say that things are different this time and this well-written piece is the best summary I have seen of why Grant has to go.

I would add only one point: whilst I am not in any way advocating the appointment of Sam Allardyce (in fact I would probably turn in my season ticket if we did get him) there is no doubt that our team has to become harder to beat if we are to stay up. The two defeats to Liverpool and Man City were simply handed to the opposition on a plate.

In games like in our position the key is to stay in the game until the last 20 mins with a view to giving it a go to see if we can nick a win. Tbe team we put out against City with both Stanislas and Barrera in the side simply made it too easy for the opposition to get at us early on. By the time our good spell came later in the game the contest was already over.

I'm afraid it's now serious. Grant really does have to go. ''

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