Speculation is rife over the future of Avram Grant at West Ham. If you believe all you read on your favourite football gossip site, Grant has been deftly dodging his chairmen’s ultimatum over the last four weeks. After last night’s 2-1 win against Birmingham in the Carling Cup semi-final, he once again heard the satisfying ‘click’ of an empty chamber; his roulette pistol returned to its case until Saturday.
Last night’s victory also left Grant just one game away from reaching his fourth major cup final in as many years, with three different teams. An impressive achievement and who knows, he may even win one. So if, or when, that bullet does arrive, it should only relieve Grant of his league duties and allow him to fully concentrate on being a cup-only manager. To adapt a term from American Football, Grant could be the first Special Cup Teams Coach.
Sure, bring in an Allardyce if securing Premier League status is desired. No doubt a string of soulless 1-0, route one encounters await, with Matthew Upson deployed as a lone striker. But Grant should be retained as inspirer-in-chief. Before each cup-tie he can regale players with tales of near-glory. Of winning a semi-final in extra time, with a team already relegated, destined to be dismantled and sold off. Or of being just one slipped, standing foot away from achieving a European glory, which had eluded the so-called Special One.
Grant instills a collective belief for cup games which does not translate to the long haul of a league season. Most managers sacrifice a cup run for stability and safety in the league. Grant’s genius is fleeting, yet focused. He offers an escape from the drudgery of his league failings, by giving romance in the cup. By retaining this cup specialist, Hammers fans could progress in both.