Grant hopes to deliver parting gift to the fans who adore him

Portsmouth manager hails Cup run as more impressive than his exploits with Chelsea

Last Sunday, after Portsmouth's final league game of the season at Goodison Park, the applause was rather louder and longer-lasting than normal, even given Pompey's vociferous and numerous travelling support.

Avram Grant looked around, reflecting on an impossibly turbulent season for the south-coast club, but wondered why and who everyone was clapping. Then the mystery was cleared up. "I went to the Portsmouth supporters," Grant explained, "and my sister said to me the whole stadium was cheering me. I do not know if happy is the right word but it gives me a good feeling. I was very touched by what happened at Everton."

In other words, getting on for three years after being looked on with a mixture of envy and contempt as he emerged from the background to become manager of Chelsea, Grant has, evidently to his surprise, now been adopted as one of the Premier League's favourite sons. Arsène Wenger, for all his success and longevity in England, is never given such a reception away from the Emirates.

How did it come to this? With his penchant for black clothing and what looks like a near-permanent scowl on his face, he resembles more an undertaker on a bad day than a Premier League manager but maybe that is appropriate. Given that this season Pompey came close to extinction in the High Court with debts of £140m, Grant might have been asked to read the last rites.

As it is, Grant, who will lead Pompey out today for the FA Cup final against Chelsea – in a black suit of course – has done just about every other job at Fratton Park since his appointment in November. A never-ending injury list that has, among other players, deprived him today of Hermann Hreidarsson in defence, Kevin-Prince Boateng in midfield and possibly Jamie O'Hara too, has meant he is more acquainted than he would like with the treatment room, and time spent with the administrator has brought other faculties into play.

"I've been a lawyer, a doctor, but it was not good," he said. "I was the football manager but at the end of the day I didn't know what the club was going through. But it was very difficult every day to come and not know what would happen." When he pleads: "Not for me, not for the club, another season like this," you can feel his pain. Regardless of today's result, they will have to rebuild next season in the Championship.

The former Israel national coach tries to numb that pain with his gallows sense of humour. He joked that, in the wake of Chelsea's 8-0 thrashing of Wigan last weekend, the Blues had agreed "to stop when it gets to 4-0" at Wembley, saying Chelsea owed him a favour. When he was talking about his first coaching job, at Petah Tikva in his homeland, and said that compared to Tikva, Fratton Park's pitch was like Wembley, he quickly realised that was not the compliment it should be.

But wry laughs alone have not been enough to take Portsmouth to their second FA Cup final in three seasons. If some perceived Grant, in his time at Chelsea, to be football's version of Chauncey Gardiner, the Peter Sellers character in the film Being There, who rises to a position of great power and influence by doing nothing except being in the right place at the right time, his work during Pompey's Cup run has shown his true worth. In the semi-final against Tottenham at Wembley, he motivated several half-fit players to run for two hours, leading to their 2-0 win.

Grant, 55, took Chelsea to their first, and so far only, Champions League final two years ago, losing on penalties to Manchester United. Comparing that campaign with Pompey's Cup run, he is sure which is the more impressive. He said: "It is more difficult with Portsmouth. When you come to the Champions League final, even if it's the first time, there is no difference between Chelsea and other clubs, they are the same, more or less. Portsmouth have played against teams much better than us so it is more difficult.

"The story is the semi-final. We did more than our job this season by getting there. I thought even if we get to the final we would not be happier than when we got to the semi. It was a great achievement and a great feeling."

Grant took over at Chelsea after Jose Mourinho departed in September 2007. Grant, too, was sacked, after that Champions League defeat. Yet he shows little bitterness over that episode, instead feeling he brought something positive to a club that was tearing itself apart from the inside. He recalls: "I can't tell you everything was perfect but there were so many good things. To lose only one game in the league, and that was my first, against Manchester United, the Champions League final, the quality of football, the atmosphere, the image of the team changed – so many good things that have been continued. We changed the image of the team."

He has brought a certain style to Pompey's game too, although this final will, in all probability, be Grant's last in charge. Chauncey Gardiner, as his star continues to rise, ends the film blissfully walking on water, heading towards the horizon. If Grant wins today, he might experience a similar sensation.

Two painful years since Portsmouth won the FA cup

*First FA Cup triumph in 69 years

17 May 2008: Kanu scores the winner as Harry Redknapp's team defeat Cardiff.

*Redknapp quits for Tottenham

25 Oct 2008: Tony Adams takes over.

*Big names begin to depart

Jan 2009: Jermain Defoe and Lassana Diarra exit as the club's troubles emerge.

*Adams sacked

9 Feb 2009: Tony Adams replaced by Paul Hart after five wins in 23 games.

*Club changes ownership

26 Aug 2009: Alexandre Gaydamak sells to Sulaiman al-Fahim, who 40 days later sells to Ali al-Faraj.

*Hart out after less than a year

24 Nov 2009: Paul Hart is sacked as manager and replaced by Avram Grant.

*Financial problems come to head

23 Dec 2009: HM Revenue and Customs file winding up petition against Pompey.

*Another new owner

3 Feb 2010: Balram Chainrai becomes fourth new owner of the season.

*Club enter administration

26 Feb 2010: The club becomes the first Premier League side to enter administration and are docked nine points.

*Drop down to Championship

10 April 2010: Relegation confirmed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor