Avram Grant appears to be on borrowed time after it emerged that West Ham are giving serious consideration to replacing their manager with Sam Allardyce.
Grant said before the weekend that he did not envisage being sacked despite West Ham’s precarious position at the foot of the table but the club’s owners are alarmed at their predicament and beginning to run out of patience. It is unlikely that a managerial change will be made before Saturday’s trip to Blackburn Rovers, with Grant understood to have a few more games to turn things around, although that understanding would almost certainly change if West Ham were to suffer a crushing defeat at Ewood Park.
Allardyce’s unexpected availability has prompted a rethink at Upton Park and cranked up the pressure on Grant to produce a run of results that has so far proved beyond him this season. The club’s owners have been desperate to see Grant succeed after they appointed him as Gianfranco Zola’s successor in the summer, but there is an acceptance that the managerial landscape has changed now that Allardyce is out of work following his surprise sacking from Blackburn.
Having previously been less than impressed at the managers in waiting, West Ham have the chance to turn to someone with a proven record in the Premier League to rescue their season. Allardyce’s uncompromising approach would make him a controversial choice for a club that prides itself on playing free-flowing football, although the imperative of remaining in the Premier League may outweigh any aesthetic concerns.
Allardyce’s former chairman at Blackburn, John Williams, is expected to remain at the club despite his deep concern at recent events. Williams and the managing director, Tom Finn, held extensive talks with Blackburn’s new owners this week but, in the interest of short-term stability at Ewood, have decided against resigning from their posts.
Sir Alex Ferguson has predicted a bleak future for Blackburn as the club’s new owners revealed they sacked Allardyce because he was not the man to take them into the Champions League. Venky’s chairperson, Anuradha Desai, claimed that first-team coach Steve Kean could remain in charge for “a couple of months” as they consider potential replacements.
Allardyce was dismissed on Monday, having objected to the prospect of players being imposed on him during the January transfer window. Desai insisted a desire for entertaining football was also a contributory factor but, given that the Indian poultry company has allocated a £5-million transfer budget for next month, Rovers’ new owners have invited accusations of harbouring unrealistic ambitions.
“We want good football and Blackburn to be fourth or fifth in the league or even better,” said Desai. “We had been talking to Sam in the past few weeks but he did not fit in with our vision for the club’s future. We wanted good football, the games to be interesting and of course to win and to have good players. We needed to do some changes and Sam going is, of course, the main change. This is a major step but it was needed. We thought: Why delay? The fans should trust us and have belief in us because this is in the best interests of the club.”
Desai confirmed that Venky’s wants a British candidate to succeed Allardyce and that it may take “a couple of months before a new manager is put in place”. Allardyce harboured misgivings over the influence of the sports agency Kentaro on transfer policy at the club.
Ferguson, a long-time ally, said: “The game has gone mad. Apparently they have taken on an agent to advise them on how to run the club, which players to use and pick. It’s unbelievable, very odd, and it tells you everything about the modern game. I don’t know how they will possibly replace Sam. I think there are troubled times ahead at Blackburn now.” —