x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Grant lined up for return to Stamford Bridge

Beleaguered West Ham manager earmarked to replace Arnesen as director of football at his former club.

Wally Downes, left, the new assistant coach to Grant, cut an authoritative figure on the touchline during the Wigan game.
Wally Downes, left, the new assistant coach to Grant, cut an authoritative figure on the touchline during the Wigan game.

Avram Grant could be in line for an extraordinary escape route from West Ham United - to Chelsea.

Despite some of the despair being lifted from Upton Park by the 3-1 win over Wigan Athletic on Saturday, Grant remains on borrowed time at the east London club.

But West Ham's owners have been reluctant to sack Grant - who was only appointed in the summer - until they are sure who should be the new manager.

And even then David Gold and David Sullivan, the joint owners, are loathe to axe the Israeli given the cost of compensation.

That is why they are considering offering him the post of general manager with Wally Downes, the new assistant coach, having a bigger say on first-team matters. And they are even contemplating calling on Paolo Di Canio, the Hammers legend, to spice up team spirit.

Alternatively they could draft in a new senior coach. In any such scenario, Grant would lose control over first-team affairs - which could prompt a legal case against the club.

However, it is understood Grant could make a dramatic return to Chelsea as the technical director - now that it has emerged that Frank Arnesen will leave the role when his contract expires in the summer.

Now his position has been revealed Chelsea may want to resolve the situation sooner. Grant, who filled the role before temporarily taking over the top job when Jose Mourinho left the club in 2007, is seen as a safe pair of hands.

Downes cut an authoritative figure on the touhline during the Wigan win, but last night Grant maintained a position of defiance that he is the one running the show ahead of tonight's Carling Cup quarter-final tie against Manchester United.

"If Arsene Wenger is quiet and Arsenal win, everybody says it's a good thing," he said. "I just think the message needs to be clear. People have different ways of bringing the message.

"Wally Downes asked me before the game if he could shout and say whatever he wants. He did well, is very happy, energetic.

"Wally has a specific job that he is committed to. He is doing it well, is very passionate - but he does it in a different way."

That way though has already emphasised Grant's failure to inspire the West Ham players.

But Grant retains the respect of Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, who feels that he is best suited operating in a liaison role between pitch and boardroom.

sports@thenational.ae

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