Avram Grant: 'This belongs to the fans and players'

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Avram Grant may look an unemotional, uncharismatic man, but verbally he is a match for Jose Mourinho. Last night he paid a heartfelt tribute to his players, the Portsmouth fans, everyone connected with a club that has endured a ghastly season.

Relegated and bankrupt they may be but Portsmouth showed extraordinary spirit and the Israeli seemed quite overcome as he sought to absorb the result his team had conjured. "Not many people expected us to get to the final: a team at the bottom of the table against a team like Tottenham. But we had the belief, the courage to come to this game and win it," he said.

"Five players weren't fully fit, they could not have played 120 minutes, but they gave something from their hearts. We lost Nadir Belhadj in training yesterday at the last minute, some players didn't play in their natural position. You can't imagine how difficult it's been in terms of tactics because we haven't known until the last minute who could play for us because of injuries and contracts [some players were in doubt because playing would trigger payments the administrator would not sanction]. Despite all of this, we played football, created chances and scored twice. I'm very proud."

He added: "This achievement belongs to the fans and the players. They never gave up. The easy solution is to give up, and your life is much easier. But I told the players that I don't believe in taking the easy option. We decided to keep fighting. I wouldn't wish on anyone what we have had: to come to work not knowing what would happen next."

Describing the scenes of jubilation in the dressing room, Grant said: "For these moments, you work all your life. [Ricardo] Rocha gave his man of the match award to Hermann Hreidarsson who was injured [a few weeks ago]. To see the members of staff who have been sacked in the dressing room with us, people who the players have paid to be with us – it's very humbling."

To his credit Harry Redknapp did not dampen the mood, refusing to use either the pitch, on which Michael Dawson slipped for the opening goal, or the decision to disallow Peter Crouch's "equaliser", as an excuse, though he was forthright about both.

"It wasn't our day. We had enough opportunities but couldn't stick one away. I thought it was a good goal. If you see David James's face, he looked round and said: 'How did I get away with that?' But full credit to Portsmouth.

"The pitch is a disgrace. It is rock-hard underneath and wet on top, it's like a skating rink. It's not an excuse, it's the same for both sides, but for any team to have to play on that is farcical. How can you play football on a pitch you can't stand up on?

James himself said of the occasion: "We were eight or nine-to-one to win the game, so it's nice to prove people wrong. This season has encapsulated just about every emotion, and to get to a cup final at the end is wonderful."

Grant, who sported an armband marking yesterday's Holocaust Remembrance Day, travels to Poland today for a memorial service for Holocaust victims, among whom were many relatives. It is the first he will have attended since the October death of his father, Meir, who survived the camps but buried siblings and parents with his own hands. Two years ago the occasion coincided with Grant steering Chelsea to the Champions League final. He said: "It has happened twice, we get to a final; it's more than symbolic."


Yesterday's 2-0 victory for Portsmouth against Tottenham at Wembley was the first time in four attempts Pompey have beaten Spurs in an FA Cup tie after losing 2-1 in the fifth round in 1991, 3-1 in the fourth in 1967 and 5-0 in the third in 1937.