Avram Grant revealed yesterday that his Portsmouth club's players and coaching team are paying the wages of four members of the training ground staff. The contrast with Roman Abramovich's bankrolled Chelsea, who Pompey meet at Fratton Park tonight, could not be starker.
"Football is not just football; there are people who are very special who we live with every day and I am very happy they have done this – it has meant a lot to me. The moment the club drops the human side it is the first step down to finish as a club," Grant said.
Training ground manager Tug Wilson, kit staff Clarke Denford and Mary Butcher, and masseur Warwick Harvey were among 85 to lose their jobs at the club 10 days ago. Players led by the goalkeeper David James, and Grant and his coaching staff organised a whip-round to meet their combined weekly wage of £1,500. James's bid to pay the quartet was initially rejected by the administrator Andrew Andronikou but the four returned to work yesterday.
Wilson, who has been at Portsmouth for the last eight and a half years, said: "It means a lot, it is a tremendous gesture and shows players are not all greedy and out for themselves. They are work colleagues and we are all in this together as a club."
Despite the club's problems, Grant sees no problem with wealthy owners like Abramovich paying the way for their sides to win trophies. "This owner [Abramovich] took the club and did more than [Jose] Mourinho and more than I did for it," said Grant, manager at Chelsea in 2007-08. "We need to respect that. It depends on the owners and how much money they can spend. As I understand, Portsmouth spent more money than they could. But let's say Roman Abramovich comes to Portsmouth and spends £100m, I would be very happy. I would be happy with £1m."
Carlo Ancelotti yesterday claimed he could achieve where Grant failed and said: "I am here to change the history of this club." Ancelotti has come under pressure in the space of a week, after Chelsea lost 1-0 to Internazionale and drew 1-1 with Blackburn Rovers. Out of the Champions League and third in the table, Chelsea have suddenly taken on a sickly demeanour. They have won just five games in their last 11 in all competitions and have lost their aura of earlier in the season.
Since Abramovich bought the club in 2003, managers such as Claudio Ranieri and Grant have been sacked for failing to win trophies. Ancelotti insisted yesterday his job is not in question. "I am here to change the history of this club," Ancelotti said. "I am an optimistic man. I have a good relationship with the club and with Roman. My position is not in discussion. The owner now is thinking what I think: to win the Premier League and to win the FA Cup."
Ancelotti accepted the club's current run of form is unacceptable. "It's not enough," he said. "We had possibilities to win more and we didn't, so we are disappointed. We need to put more intensity into our jobs. It's the most difficult moment of the season. We're working hard to try and close this moment with a victory."