The truth about Grant: good managers do not relegate big clubs

Gold and Sullivan should have been ruthless and removed the manager. Instead, another 'golden generation' face the dreaded drop

One by one they walked off, the golden generation. Jermain Defoe shirtless; Joe Cole man of a match he would never wish to remember; Paolo Di Canio staring straight ahead, perhaps contemplating his pledge to commit suicide if West Ham were relegated. In the middle, eyes cast down, was Trevor Brooking, the man who epitomised all the grace and dignity of Upton Park, who had offered himself as manager after Glenn Roeder had collapsed in his office suffering from a brain tumour. They had taken 22 points from their last 11 matches and it was not enough.

Up in the stands at St Andrew's were David Gold and David Sullivan, who in 2003 were owners of Birmingham City but had been brought up West Ham fans; Gold amid what he called the "stench of poverty" of London's East End, Sullivan, further out in Hornchurch. Now they stand where Brooking once stood, at the helm of a West Ham side, perhaps not as glittering as that one, preparing for the electric chill of relegation.

Neither was at Manchester City a fortnight ago, nor was the vice-chairman Karren Brady. Gold and Brady had reasonable excuses, one was in hospital recovering from septicaemia, the other celebrating her daughter's 15th birthday. Sullivan might have travelled to Manchester but said it would have done no good as he could not "influence the result". He donated his travel costs to charity. Today there will be 34 coaches, paid for by the club, travelling to Wigan, full of supporters who will not be able to influence the result. Anything other than victory will see West Ham, already laden with £80m of debt, go down.

The PR of a struggling club is serene optimism. Jonathan Spector told West Ham United TV that he would be targeting "six points from six as West Ham seek to pull off perhaps the greatest escape in their history". He could hardly have targeted anything else but the sounds from the boardroom at Upton Park, which like the training ground at Chadwell Heath is owned by the banks, have been universally pessimistic.

When Birmingham were relegatedin 2008, Brady remarked that selling Emile Heskey might be sufficient to stave off the creditors, but now the mood has an apocalyptic feel to it. As early as 28 April, after their 3-0 defeatby Chelsea, Sullivan publicly rated their chances of survival at "between 25 and 30 per cent". He added: "This club is in a worse financial position than any other in the country", which seems an exaggeration when viewed from Plymouth, whose players have not been paid in months.

"All the club's debts are football-related and the bank debts are secured on the stadium and the training ground," he said. "There is no possibility of a way out through administration." Brady said that Gold and Sullivan had "dreams the size of whales" when they took over West Ham last year, acknowledging they were now tadpole-like.

Given that their final two fixtures see them play Wigan, who they have beaten in four of their last five meetings, and Sunderland, who have lost their last four matches at the Boleyn Ground, there are straws to cling to. However, before receiving his Footballer of the Year award on Thursday night, Scott Parker said: "I would be lying if I said we had a good opportunity of surviving."

Gold and Sullivan stated they would take full responsibility should West Ham fail. That responsibility runs very deep and starts with the appointment of Avram Grant. This time last year, Grant was preparing for an FA Cup final in the wake of relegation. He had managed a financially-ruined Portsmouth with dignity. He had come within one penalty kick of giving Roman Abramovich what he craved, a European Cup won in Moscow.

However, good managers do not relegate big clubs. Since the Premier League's inception there have been seven authentically big teams to have been relegated. Three – Nottingham Forest in 1993, West Ham in 2003 and Newcastle two years ago – were run by men afflicted by alcoholism or serious illness (Brian Clough, Roeder and Joe Kinnear). Two – Blackburn in 1999 and Leeds in 2004 – by men who had either never managed beforeor who had essentially retired from front-line football (Brian Kidd and Eddie Gray).

Where does that leave Grant? When removing Gianfranco Zola, whose campaign total of 35 points would have seen West Ham relegated, Gold and Sullivan were accused of a ruthless lack of sentiment, but with Grant, they have not been ruthless enough.

There are some West Ham fans who wonder if Mark Hughes would have been a better choice and there are many who wonder why they did not go through with their plan to appoint Martin O'Neill in January.

It was botched like an African military coup and, if Brady, Gold and Sullivan knew anything about O'Neill, it should have been that he has a low embarrassment threshold and likes total control. At Upton Park he would probably have got neither. It is almost certain that none of the clubs that changed managers mid-season will be relegated. Had they waited they might have got Roy Hodgson.

Eight years ago, the golden generation fled Upton Park – Michael Carrick to Tottenham, Di Canio to Charlton, David James to Manchester City, Cole to Chelsea. Defoe handed in a transfer request less than 24 hours after relegation, a piece of tactlessness for which he has not been forgiven in east London.

The names of Green, Hitzlsperger,Noble and Parker may soon be removed from West Ham shirts. They may not be a golden generation or even silver but they don't deserve to be the base metal they have become.

Today's other games

Arsenal v Aston Villa (4pm, Sky Sports 1)

The most significant moment at the Emirates this afternoon may come after the final whistle, when Cesc Fabregas waves to the crowd, whether he has played or not. Au revoir or cheerio for good? A home win would maintain pressure on Chelsea for second position, and keep Manchester City at bay for the automatic Champions' League group place. Villa supporters, meanwhile, head for their lowest finish for five years uncertain whether the incapacitated Gérard Houllier will still be the manager come August.

Birmingham City v Fulham (4pm)

Three defeats in four games have left Birmingham needing another victory to feel comfortable and Fulham, having only recently achieved their second away win of the season, may prove accommodating visitors. Mark Hughes's side have just conceded five goals to Liverpool – as Birmingham did three weeks ago – and the only remaining ambition is to finish in the top half of the table, which would still be a creditable effort.

Chelsea v Newcastle United (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1)

The title having disappeared, Chelsea supporters will be keen to know if Carlo Ancelotti inevitably follows. Like Fabregas at the Emirates, his wave to the crowd may give a clue, for it is widely assumed that he is on his way out after being beaten by Manchester United in the two most important competitions. But Alan Pardew can at least look forward to another season in charge after managing to keep Newcastle on a remarkably even keel.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur (4pm)

The chants of "Dalglish" will be more exuberant than ever following confirmation that canny Kenny has belatedly been confirmed as manager. Securing fifth place ahead of Spurs would follow a victory here, bringing the dubious prize of a place in the Europa League and prompting another Harry Redknapp speech about the need for a couple more top-class players to compete with all the teams above him.

Steve Tongue

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices