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Grant Needs Aid

There isn’t the slightest possibility that Avram Grant will get the best out of the players at his disposal at Chelsea. In fact, he’ll be gone by Christmas.

Tony Cascarino, 05 Oct 2007

’m not going to lie and say I expected Jose Mourinho to leave Chelsea precisely when he did, but it had been an open secret that his relationship with Roman Abramovich had irretrievably broken down.

Contrary to the spin a lot of journalists have put on it, I know from speaking to his assistant Steve Clarke that once it was clear that his number one target, Kaka, wasn’t available, Jose was as keen to sign Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan as his employer was.

The point at which agreement turned to disagreement was the end of last season when – despite being given numerous chances – Shevchenko failed to rediscover his Serie A form. If Arsene Wenger or Rafael Benitez went to their boards saying, “The bloke’s not up to it, let’s get rid”, they’d back him. Abramovich, on the other hand, insisted on Shevchenko being given another chance this campaign. Well, judging by the Fulham game on Saturday he hasn’t taken it.

Yes, Chelsea’s performances under Mourinho this season were poor, but he had to go to Villa, Man United and Liverpool without key players like Drogba, Carvalho and Lampard.

The wise-after-the-fact brigade have also criticised his summer signings but, the decidedly average Pizarro aside, getting Ben-Haim from Bolton and Belleti from Barcelona for £3 million apiece was great business. He also saved Chelsea £23 million-plus by not buying Daniel Alves because come the end of the season he’ll be available from Sevilla on a free.

Shrewd man that he is, I think Mourinho knew the writing was on the wall, and went out of his way to antagonise Abramovich and the other Chelsea people who he knew had turned against him. The outcome being that he’s walked out of Stamford Bridge with his managerial reputation intact, the fans still loving him – and a big cheque in his back pocket!

I’m all for giving new managers a chance, but for love nor money I can’t understand how Avram Grant has got to 52-years-of-age without obtaining a pro licence. If he was a player who’d just finished his career like Roy Keane or Gareth Southgate, fair enough, but this guy’s been managing since 1986.

Never mind being up to one of the Premiership’s top jobs, if Derby County sacked Billy Davies tomorrow, Avram Grant wouldn’t even get an interview for that position.

He won’t necessarily be the complete disaster that most Chelsea fans are predicting, but I don’t think he’ll get the best from the players at his disposal and will be out of the job by Christmas.

As for who you bring in to replace him, there are only five club managers who I’d consider to be as good or possibly better than Mourinho – Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger who for obvious reasons are unlikely to take the job, Frank Rijkaard, Sven Goran Erikkson and Juande Ramos – whose Sevilla side plays precisely the brand of attacking football Roman’s looking for.

If none of those are willing to leave their clubs mid-season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea consider Guus Hiddink, who could be newly out of a job if England beat Russia in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

One final thing about Chelsea – having had John Terry sing the manager’s praises to me on several occasions, I don’t for one moment think he lead the so-called player revolt against Mourinho. In fact, my sources tell me he was as upset privately about his departure as Didier Drogba was publicly.

Moving on to Ireland, and although we’ve blown our chances of competing next year in Austria and Switzerland, the game against Germany at Croke Park is anything but meaningless. If Steve could get a win or draw against them and maximum points from Wales and Cyprus, I believe the FAI will keep him on for the World Cup campaign. Register another couple of defeats, and I’m afraid he could be joining Guus Hiddink on the dole queue.

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