Brady denies West Ham board targeted O'Neill
Monday 24 January 2011
Karren Brady was busy yesterday attempting to fix the future and bury the past. While making West Ham's undeniably strong case to inherit London's Olympic Stadium, the club's formidable vice-chairman attempted, with much less conviction, to suggest that there was never any question of sacking Avram Grant and replacing him with Martin O'Neill.
Asked about what appeared to be an abysmally bungled attempt to force out Grant in favour of the rather more charismatic Ulsterman, Brady told the BBC's Sportsweek programme that O'Neill's name "had not even been mentioned" at a board meeting three days before the story broke on 15 January – a few hours before their home game with Arsenal. "My view is that we have made a decision about our manager," she said. "We have put not only our support behind him but our chequebook and we are out in the market trying to bring players in."
Following Frédéric Piquionne's dismissal for celebrating with the West Ham supporters after scoring what he obviously thought was the winner against Everton, Grant has fairly urgent need of a centre-forward for Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Birmingham. With Piquionne suspended and Carlton Cole still recovering from injury, he may have to rely on Benni McCarthy, who has not been good enough or fit enough to start a league game this season, to lead his attack.
Had Piquionne remained on the pitch, West Ham might have clung on for the 2-1 win they deserved rather than succumb to Marouane Fellaini's equaliser in the final minutes.
Whatever the truth of Brady's statement, Grant did not appear overly convinced by pledges of loyalty from his board. "I don't think you can be comfortable in football," he said in the narrow corridors of Goodison Park after a performance that was vastly superior to the supine 3-0 surrender to Arsenal in what was expected to be his final game. "In football everything, including the position of manager, is temporary. I have decided I will not speak about things off the pitch as there are things I like and things I don't like and football has never been a normal business.
"I will try to create some stability for the players. You need stability not just in football but in your job as well. If you don't have stability in your job, you will not write the same."
Among the pages that were written about Grant's future, was the charge that the Israeli does not "show emotion" on the touchline, a quality O'Neill has in abundance. It is a cosmetic charge – as if a manager running around his technical area screaming abuse would on its own turn Lincoln City into league champions – however, when those who had travelled up from east London and Essex began chanting Grant's name and asking for a wave, the man in black showed absolutely no response. He said he had not heard it.
"They deserve many good things, these fans," he said about a group of supporters who had seen them win once away from Upton Park in 18 months and that down the Thames at Fulham. "They have been behind us in very difficult times but I was very concentrated so I did not see them."
When West Ham last came to Merseyside to deliver an abject display in losing 3-0 to Liverpool in November, the manager had been asked to wave to the travelling supporters at Anfield but it was a request loaded with sarcasm. Then, they had wanted him to wave goodbye. Now these same supporters were chanting: "We love you Avram." It was a temporary love, of course, the kind that football deals in, but it was a sight better than the cold silences he had been given seven days before.
When goal celebrations go wrong
* September 2004
The Australian scored the only goal in Everton's 1-0 win over Manchester City at Eastlands before he was sent off for an overexuberant celebration.
* April 2006
The Congolese striker scored the equaliser for Portsmouth in a 1-1 home draw with Arsenal but had to limp off after twisting his ankle during his trade-mark somersault celebration.
* December 2009
Struck to earn Pompey a 1-1 draw at Sunderland, then received a second yellow card for removing his shirt.
But, it could be worse...
Paulo Diogo, of Swiss side Servette, suffered an horrific injury in December 2004 when he set up a goal and jumped up on the fence separating fans from the pitch to celebrate. Not knowing his wedding ring had got caught, he leapt down – and his finger was torn off.
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