Bridge arrives but Grant's future remains in the balance

Manager remains in job but club fail to come out in support for Israeli after cup win over Birmingham
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The Independent Football

Wayne Bridge arrived at West Ham yesterday, but the exit door from Upton Park remained shut as the board meeting that had been expected to bring an end to Avram Grant's troubled tenure at the club broke up with the manager still in place.

There was no public declaration of support for the Israeli but for the time being he remains in place to prepare for Saturday evening's game with Arsenal. The signing of Bridge was a fillip for Grant, who was forced to play Matthew Upson at left-back in Tuesday's Carling Cup victory over Birmingham.

He has also received public backing from his players, the influential Scott Parker and Mark Noble both speaking out in his favour, but any repeat of the sort of performance that saw them beaten 5-0 in their last Premier League game, at Newcastle, is likely to finally lead to his dismissal.

Bridge passed a medical at the club yesterday and has joined until the end of the season from Manchester City with West Ham agreeing to pick up his £90,000-a-week wages. He is set to make his debut against Arsenal. West Ham remain keen to add to the squad, with further loan deals the most likely method of recruitment, and are desperate to hold on to key players such as Matthew Upson, who is out of contract in the summer and attracting interest from Arsenal, and Parker.

The drubbing at Newcastle is the only defeat West Ham have suffered in the last seven games, but the first leg against Birmingham was widely forecast to be Grant's last in charge. Whether the outcome of yesterday's meeting results in anything more than a stay of execution remains to be seen. Sam Allardyce and Martin O'Neill have both been flagged up as possible replacements with the former Bolton manager known to be keen for a swift return to management. There is known to be friction between Grant and sections of the board with the manager voicing his frustration with the continued speculation over his position in the wake of Tuesday's fortunate victory.

Parker, comfortably West Ham's best performer this season, has said that the players remain firmly committed to their manager.

He said: "Definitely. If everything that was written in the press and everything that you hear about West Ham, if you believed everything, you would be rather a stressed man. As a player we just keep our heads down and get on with our jobs."

Grant's outward manner amid increasing pressure on his position has also impressed Parker. "I think that's his demeanour. He seems quite relaxed and chilled out and that [filters] down to the players.

"We are fighting as much as the gaffer is fighting. We are all in the same corner. We are all trying to do our best for ourselves, for the manager, for the club. The manager's got tons and tons of experience so, yes, he's doing a good job."

Noble, who scored West Ham's first goal against Birmingham, said: "So much has been said over the last couple of weeks and months, but you can see how the boys worked. If they didn't like the manager I don't think you would have got that effort off them. That shows we're behind him and we're playing for the club and that's what we need to do."

Aston Villa had also been keen on Bridge, but the former Chelsea player preferred a move back to London. He has started only once in the Premier League this season with Roberto Mancini preferring the Argentine Pablo Zabaleta.

Bridge, who was in the stands on Tuesday, said: "I spoke to Scotty Parker and a few people and they told me what a great club it is. There is a lot of quality here and I know we can move up the table. The first half on Tuesday was great. If we can play like that every week we'll be fine."

Grant's record

Avram Grant has been in charge at Upton Park for seven months, winning 10 of his 28 games at the club. Despite being bottom of the Premier League, the club have lost just one of their last seven.

West Ham's recent record:

18 Dec Prem Blackburn (a) Drew 1-1

26 Dec Prem Fulham (a) Won 3-1

28 Dec Prem verton (h) Drew 1-1

1 Jan Prem Wolves (h) Won 2-0

5 Jan Prem Newcastle (a) Lost 5-0

8 Jan FA Cup Barnsley (h) Won 2-0

11 Jan Lg Cup Birm'ham (h) Won 2-1

Next five games:

Saturday Arsenal (h) Prem

22 Jan Everton (a) Prem

26 Jan Birmingham (a) Lg Cup

29 Jan Nottingham Forest (h) FA Cup

1 Feb Blackpool (a) Prem