Portsmouth ask Grant to turn tide
Former Chelsea manager handed transfer funds to save Pompey from the drop
The new Portsmouth manager, Avram Grant, has been promised that there are funds available to spend on players in January and that he will be able to appoint backroom staff when he embarks on the task of keeping the club in the Premier League.
The former Chelsea manager took charge of the club yesterday, although the writing has been on the wall for Paul Hart, who was sacked on Tuesday, ever since Grant was appointed director of football last month. It was a similar scenario to the way in which Grant took over from Jose Mourinho at Chelsea more than two years ago, when he was first appointed director of football and then finally got the big job.
The club, bottom of the table, have been in financial chaos all summer and had a transfer embargo imposed upon them by the Premier League for much of the last transfer window. Hart, who won two out of 13 league games this season, was limited mainly to loan signings in August but Grant was given assurances by the club's owners, the Al-Faraj family, that he will have money to spend in January.
When he was in charge at Chelsea during 2007-08, Grant appointed the Dutch coach Henk ten Cate as his assistant, a decision which did not prove to be as successful as he had hoped as Ten Cate had a training ground row with the club captain John Terry. For the time being Grant will work with the first-team coaches, Paul Groves and Ian Woan.
The Israeli's visa status has become an awkward issue for the club. For now he will have to continue to work nominally as director of football because that is what is stipulated on his Home Office visa, although how they define the role is not clear. Yesterday, Portsmouth were at great pains to point out that Grant would be reapplying for his visa.
Hart announced yesterday that he would not be taking up the club's offer to coach in the academy, where he worked before he succeeded Tony Adams as manager in February. He said that his ambition was to work as a manager again rather than go back to coaching young players, the job in which he made his name.
Hart said: "I would like at this time to thank all of the supporters and players for the backing they have given during my time at Portsmouth. The speed of recent events, though, has been somewhat surprising and I am naturally disappointed not to be able to continue in the role at Portsmouth.
"Unfortunately I do not believe that having been the manager of Portsmouth I will be able to return to the youth team role that has been offered to me by the club and it is with deep regret that my time with Portsmouth has now come to an end. I look forward to a return to management in the near future."
Grant's first game in charge of Portsmouth tomorrow will be against Manchester United, as it was when he took over Chelsea in September 2007. Chelsea lost that game at Old Trafford 2-0 and Grant's first match in English football ended with him complaining about the referee. In that case it was Mike Dean who denied Joe Cole a penalty when he was tripped by Patrice Evra and also sent off John Obi Mikel in dubious circumstances.
The Portsmouth chief executive, Peter Storrie, said: "Avram is a very experienced and respected manager who has managed at the highest level. The board believes he is the man to help steer the club out of the relegation zone. He knows the club, the players and the set-up at Fratton Park, so it was the logical move to make him the next manager, once the board had decided to relieve Paul Hart of the role."
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