Grant sacking can’t overshadow failings of owners Gold and Sullivan

Having signed a four year deal when joining West Ham in 2010, 
Grant has spent less than a year in the job before getting sacked
By Akhlaq Hanif
West Ham looked to their two local lads in 2009 to help them avoid financial ruin and provide the platform to successfully avoid relegation. That dream ended today after the Hammers were condemned to the Championship after a 3-2 defeat away to Wigan Athletic. But the success of the two David’s – Gold and Sullivan – raises more questions than answers.
Under the unity of Italian coach Gianfranco Zola, they were able to enjoy the celebrations of surviving relegation last season. Although they made a decision to axe the well liked Italian, they hoped to stabilise the club and build foundations like they had done with Birmingham City.
Replacing Zola with Avram Grant was a huge decision which has backfired on the owners. Grant’s CV hadn’t been lightening up like a shop window but it was the Israeli’s first opportunity to manage a club not in the midst of change or fighting for their very existence.
After Jose Mourinho’s relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich came to the point of no repair, Grant took over and battled with Manchester United for the destiny of the Premier League and Champions League crowns. He failed in both but would have won the latter had captain John Terry not missed his crucial spot kick. Abramovich seemed to take great offence of the disappointment in Moscow and promptly relieved Grant of his duties.
Chelsea, a squad full of experienced internationals who pushed themselves on in times of uncertainty. And at Portsmouth, who were already doomed for relegation, excused Grant for any real blame.
At West Ham, with a squad containing England internationals should have been expected to lie in mid table, before going to build on next season. However, despite the inspiration of Scott Parker, they find themselves relegated. Grant failed his first real managerial test and subsequently has been sacked as manager only an hour after the drop down to the Championship was confirmed.
But Grant can’t be the only one to be on the receiving end of blame. Gold and Sullivan haven’t helped their club’s cause with at times, disruptive actions and comments that have undermined their battle for survival.
Their main faux pas was the flirting with former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill in trying to replace Grant in December 2010. It resulted in an unstable atmosphere before and during the game against Arsenal at Upton Park, after which the club were forced to announce their support for him.
Since then, comments by Sullivan about their team’s performance haven’t improved the relationship any further. Out of the ownership pairing, Gold seems to be the one with a sensible head while Sullivan appears to be someone who needs to kept on a tight leash to prevent him from saying anything else that may demoralise his club.
If Hammers fans are looking for positives, the duo did take Birmingham City from the lower divisions to stability in the Premier League, barring this year where under the ownership of Carson Yeung, the Midlands club are themselves fighting against relegation.
We’ve seen in the Premier League, owners who quietly work behind the scenes and allowing full focus to be on the success of a team. That approach may work better for West Ham. The interruptions of negative comments by owners speaking on team matters which are incorrect can have an unsteady influence on the relationship between a manager and the people who run the club. It was this unneeded exuberance which saw the deterioration in the relationship with Zola and with Grant.
A purging of players exiting Upton Park will occur over the summer and an experienced manager who can take the club out of the Championship will be crucial if they are to bounce back on the first attempt.
The reign of Gold and Sullivan has seen its first major failure and now it’s on their shoulders to use their business and footballing clout to make sure the Hammers don’t go down a route of continuing collapse.


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