From England with Love?
Soccer / Grant returns to Portsmouth as director of football
Israeli Avram Grant has returned to Portsmouth as director of football, the struggling Premier League club said yesterday. The 54-year-old, who replaced Jose Mourinho as Chelsea manager in September 2007 before being sacked the following May, was technical director at Portsmouth from June 2006 to July 2007.
Grant's return to Portsmouth followed the takeover this week by Saudi Arabian businessman Ali al Faraj, which is expected to stabilize the club's difficult financial position. He bought 90 percent of the club's shares from Sulaiman al Fahim, who took over in August but was struggling to refinance the mounting debts. Paul Hart will remain as coach.
"The club's new owners want to appoint, with immediate effect, Avram Grant as director of football," chief executive Peter Storrie said on the club's Web site. "Avram's role is to help and advise Paul. Team selection matters will remain with the [coach]. We now have two very experienced people working together, which will only benefit the club."
Grant's experience will be vital as Portsmouth try to make up ground after losing its opening seven league games of the season, the worst start by any top-flight side for 79 years.
"I am happy to return to the best league in the world, the English league," Grant told Israeli sports Web site One, adding that he had signed a three-year contract. "My goal was to stay in the British soccer league and that is what I've done," he said. "It's now time for more work and less talk."
David James, Portsmouth's goalkeeper, yesterday backed Grant's appointment. "I love Avram, he's a great guy," he told British reporters. "When I first joined the club he was there and he was very active in preparation for matches. He's a very wise man; his football knowledge is immense. It's a very good move."
The club known as Pompey is still at the bottom despite earning its first points of the season with a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. It will be next in action against Tottenham Hotspur after the international break, and Grant is slated to return to Chelsea's Stamford Bridge in mid-December.
Storrie dispelled rumors that Grant's entry meant coach Hart's imminent departure. "Paul is going nowhere," he said. "He has done a tremendous job throughout and been an absolute brick," Storrie told British paper The News.
Among Pompey's players is Tal Ben Haim, who will get reacquainted with the man who coached him at Maccabi Tel Aviv, on the Israeli national team and at Chelsea. The two got into a dispute at Chelsea after the player said, "Had I known Grant would sign here I wouldn't have come." Ben Haim ended up on the bench.
Although his agent Pini Zahavi said yesterday that there's nothing to worry about, associates close to Ben Haim expressed surprise at Grant's appointment.