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Friday, 26 November 2010

West Ham United: Can Grant turn the Hammers’ fortunes around?

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Avram Grant has spent the majority of 2010 at the foot of the Premier League table. He got relegated with Portsmouth last season and, unless there is a significant change of fortunes at the Boleyn Ground, he is on course to take West Ham United down too. If the Press is to be believed, Saturday’s crunch clash with fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic could be Grant’s last game in charge, but can he turn things around at West Ham?

The arrival of the former Chelsea boss in the summer was greeted quite favourably by the West Ham faithful. He wasn’t the appointment that had fans rushing to Upton Park for their first glimpse of him, but the supporters weren’t slating the board either for their decision. At that moment in time Grant looked like he could do what was needed to keep the Hammers up and stabilise the club. Unfortunately, nine points from a possible 42 is relegation form and the Irons are in real danger of being cut adrift before Christmas.

This Saturday West Ham entertain Wigan Athletic in a huge six-pointer and West Ham season ticket holder Matthew Beeby is under no illusions as to how vital it is for the Hammers to take all three points.

“It’s essential. Win and we are two points behind Wigan. Lose and it’s eight which is a massive hill to climb as we don’t look capable of putting together a run of results to close that kind of gap. And with six of the bottom seven playing each other over the weekend one win will give us a real boost and a chance to close the gap.”

Grant knew this was a big job when he took over. The Hammers flirted with the drop last season and were fortunate that Hull City made a glaring error by swapping Phil Brown for Iain Dowie. However, with the likes of Scott Parker, Carlton Cole, Robert Green and Mark Noble at the club, everyone knows that West Ham should not be in this current predicament. Unfortunately performances on the pitch suggest otherwise and Matthew thinks Grant could be gone sooner rather than later.

“So far the board seems to be backing him, and his assistant has carried the can for what’s happened this season, but the club are marketing the Wigan game as a “Save Our Season” clash so you have to feel if we don’t win then it’ll be bye, bye Avram. Our squad is obviously pretty weak, but if we can’t get wins against teams like Blackpool, West Brom and Wigan at home then the manager has to take the blame.

“Grant’s made some strange choices. We were playing well – and got our only win of the season – by playing 4-4-2 with Gabbidon at left back and Piquionne and Boinna up front, bur for some reason he seems desperate to play the horribly out-of-form Illunga and Cole and has changed the shape of the team. The continued presence of Boa Morte in our starting XI is testament to why we should be relegated. My concern with getting rid of Grant is who would we bring in?”

The West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan have long stated that they stand by their managers – the emphasis being firmly on their as Gianfranco Zola found out to his cost. But after having set Grant a seven point target three games ago – the best he can achieve is six with victory over Wigan – and axing his number two, are the two Davids trying to force Grant to jump?

“I think Petrovic’s dismissal has been done to try and show that they’re taking action, but to save face by not admitting they appointed the wrong person,” said Matthew. “It’s positive to see that we’re bringing in a specialist defensive coach, but he’ll have to be a miracle worker to get us looking solid again. I can’t see Grant quitting – if anything I can see him being moved upstairs with a new first team coach coming in to oversee the day-to-day team management – hopefully Pardew.”

Matthew believes that West Ham will beat Wigan on Saturday and that Grant will remain in his job for a while yet, but, with games against Sunderland, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Fulham to come before the New Year, he thinks time is against the Israeli.

“I think Grant will have until the Manchester City game but if we’re still looking nowhere near a win then he’ll be gone so a new manager can have time to assess the squad before the window opens in January. But any repeat of the gutless performance at Anfield and that has to be it.

“Looking at the games coming up, we’ve already win at Sunderland albeit in the League Cup this season but while I’d like to be more optimistic, I can’t see more than maybe five points from those games. In fact, I’d probably more than settle for that kind of return, as long as we’re at least showing some fight.”

Matthew has experienced all the highs and the lows at West Ham over the past two decades and is resigned to the fact that they could well go down come May. But he is not prepared for Gold and Sullivan to disrespect him and the thousands of other loyal season ticket holders.

“The owners need to be very careful with the way they are treating the season ticket holders. At the rate they are going it would have been cheaper for me to just wait for them to offer some ticket promotion for each home game and to buy a ticket then than for me to buy a season ticket. My season ticket works out at £35 a game but tickets for Wigan are just £20 for much more expensive seats than mine.

“If they’re not careful loyal fans will not be renewing and they’ll be bidding for a 60,000 capacity Olympic Stadium with about 5,000 season ticket holders. When the football on show is as poor as it is they really shouldn’t be taking the diehard fans for granted. 

“We currently have a Championship squad with a couple of decent players in it who aren’t performing. It’s hard to see three worse teams than us in the league at the moment. I don’t think we’ll finish bottom, but I think we’ll go down.”

To see how our Premier League Prediction Panel think West Ham will get on against Wigan click here

Calling all West Ham United fans. Have you run out of patience with Avram Grant or do you think he can turn it around? How did you feel watching the recent game at Anfield against Liverpool? How do you rate your chance of beating Wigan and the drop? If you think Grant should be axed, who would you like to see replace him in the dugout? If you think Grant should stay, why? Whatever your view, I’d love to hear from you.


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Colin Illingworth



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