The last time Avram Grant was talking about facing Manchester United he was in front of the world's media preparing for a Champions League final in Moscow at the pinnacle of his managerial career.
The surroundings could hardly have been more of a contrast yesterday when Grant was officially paraded as Portsmouth's new manager at the dilapidated Eastleigh training ground of the Premier League's bottom club.
The pomp and ceremony of the magnificent Luzhniki Stadium were replaced by a makeshift press conference held in the players' gym. Television crews and photographers scrambled to obtain the best position, while the waiting written press were crammed into a single-decker bus in a pot-holed car park.
As Grant was shepherded into the tiny gym alongside the Portsmouth chief executive, Peter Storrie, surrounded by treadmills and weight-lifting machines, he could be forgiven for thinking back to that night in May 2008 and dreaming of what might have been. Despite insisting he was not bitter about being sacked after John Terry's missed penalty denied Chelsea victory, Grant is still haunted by memories of his final days at Stamford Bridge.
"I cannot be happy when I have left a club after I did a good job. If John had scored the penalty we would have won the European Cup," said the Israeli when it was put to him that he harboured a grudge. "I am proud of what I achieved at Chelsea. I was asked to take over because the club were on their way down, they were sixth in the league, had drawn with Rosenberg in the Champions League and had never been to the Champions League final. The atmosphere in the dressing room was very down and it was my job to take the team back to the top – I think I did a good job. I am not a man to live in the past and there were so many positive things that happened while I was at Chelsea."
Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United who visit Portsmouth today, has plenty of sympathy for the way Grant's time at Chelsea was brought to an end. "Getting to the European Cup final was an achievement and he was a penalty kick away from winning it and came second in the league," Ferguson said.
"It may not have been all about that, it may have been that someone else had come on the horizon. They may look upon that as a progress for the club to get a different manager in. Nonetheless it was disappointing for Avram, having achieved what he did but he's never shown any bitterness about it. He's handled it well.
"He's kept in touch with me quite a lot, he's a football man. He'll be glad to get back [but] when your team's bottom of the league, you've got a task. Hopefully he can manage that."
Grant will try to retain Portsmouth's Premier League status in the face of off-field uncertainty and continuing financial problems. The club are still subject to a Premier League transfer embargo and Grant is yet to meet the new Saudi owner Ali al-Faraj. Yet Grant says he has seen enough from his brief tenure as Portsmouth's director of football to suggest he can succeed where predecessor Paul Hart failed.
With United's visit followed by an emotional return to Chelsea and home games against Liverpool and Arsenal before the end of the year, that boast faces some stern examinations.Reuse content