Grant's silence is deafening as Ramos outwits 'Puzzled One'
Monday 25 February 2008
A figure in the background until earlier this season, Avram Grant was once again a marginal presence yesterday. It was not just that the Chelsea manager was outwitted, out-thought and eventually beaten by his more seasoned and undeniably astute opponent, Juande Ramos, it is just that he simply did not cut it on the sidelines.
Images from this Cup final will include the sight of Paul Robinson rooted to the spot as Didier Drogba gave Spurs the lead. Then there was the panic in Wayne Bridge's eyes as he handled to concede the equalising penalty and the determination in Jonathan Woodgate's as he attacked the ball to head the winner.
But there was also the vision of Grant, during the brief break before the vital final 15 minutes of extratime, with his team losing, scratching his head, walking behind John Terry as the captain suspiciously appeared to be giving the last team-talk. It wasn't just then. Before extra-time started Grant had also appeared silent, and a little bemused, as his assistant, Steve Clarke, geed up the players in their huddle.
Too much can be read into such moments but it didn't appear to be the case yesterday. By the side of the pitch Grant stood, almost motionless, hunched, while Ramos issued detailed, precise instructions. He's not Jose Mourinho – and in many ways that's a compliment – but he is certainly not the Special One either. The Silent One? Exactly.
Fortune should favour the brave rather than just those backed with an outrageous fortune and, for Spurs, it did. Their victory was founded on a willingness of their coach to make changes, and of his players to quickly adapt – Chelsea's defeat was rooted in the failure of theirs to do so.
A contest in which the Cup holders' power and strength appeared, for a while, undeniable was lost.
It will be an indictment of Grant who, still, and despite the formidable statistical record he has accumulated during his so far brief improbable time in charge of Chelsea, has not won any of the big games that he has overseen. Defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League, and a draw at home to Liverpool, were results in which Grant could find mitigation. There was none yesterday. Mourinho's reign found this competition to be the springboard. Grant lined up on the edge of the board – and slipped off.
In bringing back Terry and Frank Lampard, Grant did what every Chelsea fan will have regarded as the sane thing. He didn't intend to do so earlier in the week but there are, once again, matters afoot at Stamford Bridge. Pressure has been exerted from some quarters, whether from the players or above, and the manager's plans were altered.
Prior to kick-off, rumour had circulated around the stadium just as vigorously as the waving of the club flags that had been lain on seats for that purpose. Not that either captain or vice-captain were at fault. Indeed they were, probably, Chelsea's best performers but there was just that feeling that the balance of the team had been tipped and Michael Ballack, in particular, cut a disgruntled, disenchanted presence as did Joe Cole. The exclusion of the latter, in particular, was an indictment while the deployment of Nicolas Anelka, down one flank and then the other, was unfathomable. Chelsea were turgid.
It is far too early to read the rites on Grant's regime but this is Chelsea. Murmurings have already started that this may be the single season that he is in charge, having calmed the hysteria around Mourinho, before he is asked to return to the job he used to do – in the shadows.
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