Archive for FA Cup

Avram Grant Named New West Ham Manager

West Ham United have appointed Avram Grant as the club’s new manager. The Israeli signed a four-year deal which is subject to him being granted a work-permit. The former Portsmouth manager succeeds Gianfranco Zola who was sacked after the Hammers finished 17th in last season’s league.

Avram Grant who is a personal friend of Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, shot into the limelight when he was appointed the  manager of Chelsea FC following the abrupt departure of the then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. Chelsea fans were shocked by Jose Mourinho’s sacking and livid at the owner’s choice of ‘The Special One’s’ successor sparking a series of protests, some of racial and anti semantic nature. They felt he lacked the expertise to manage at the highest level. UEFA didn’t make things easier for Avram Grant either, with the governing body threatening to put an end to his long-term future at Chelsea FC since he did not possess the UEFA Pro License required under the Premier League rules by anyone wishing to manage a top-flight club on a permanent basis i.e. longer than 12 weeks.Despite all the chaos surrounding his appointment, Avram Grant kept his head and led Chelsea FC to a second place finish in the Premier League, to the Champions League Final, the League Cup Final and the FA Cup final.

Avram Grant’s contract was terminated by Chelsea FC at the end of the season and he moved to Portsmouth FC.

During his tenure at Portsmouth, they suffered a 9-point deduction owing to their financial meltdown and became the first top-flight club to go into administration. Avram Grant however, motivated his players who had not been paid on several occasions to give it their best every time they went on to the pitch. He galvanized the team and Portsmouth fought till the very end. Grant quite brilliantly, through sheer grit, determination and belief managed to take the most-obvious relegation candidates to England’s most coveted Cup Final, the FA Cup Final. Even though Portsmouth lost to Chelsea in the final, their fans continued to sing past the final whistle, still believing in their club. Last season truly was one of Avram Grant’s best, silencing critics once and for all.

Avram Grant’s time in England with Chelsea and Portsmouth leaves no doubt about his managerial abilities. No one would argue with West Ham’s co-owner David Gold who felt Avram Grant’s appointment as West Ham manager brings “stability and experience” to the club. Avram Grant who will be officially unveiled this month said, “I am proud and honoured to be the manager of West Ham”.

It seems only fair that a club supported by an impressive fanbase including the likes of Elton John, Rod Stewart, Russell Brand, Alfred Hitchcock, Sebastian Faulks, Nicolas Cage and the President of the United States, Barack Obama is managed by the very impressive Avram Grant.

Article first published as Avram Grant Named New West Ham Manager on Technorati.

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Germany Fears Realised: Ballack Out of the World Cup

Germany’s worst  fears were realised when it was announced that their captain Michael Ballack will miss this summer’s World Cup in South Africa. He was hurt in the FA cup final between Premier League Champions Chelsea, the club he plays for and Portsmouth when a late tackle by Kevin-Prince Boateng caught his ankle. A scan in Munich on Monday revealed torn  ligaments in Ballack’s right ankle  putting him out of action for at least eight weeks. Michael Ballack has already won 98 caps and scored 42 goals for Germany.  This year would have been his fourth and probably the last appearance in a World Cup.

Michael Ballack feels that Kevin-Prince Boateng tried to hurt him intentionally and that the referee, Chris Foy should have shown him a red card instead of a yellow.  Ballack who was very worried about his injury said, “I have seen [the tackle] on TV and to say it was not on purpose means you have to be a friend of Boateng.”

Kevin-Prince Boateng recently snubbed Germany to play for Ghana and with the two teams meeting in the group stages, Boateng had been dubbed by the German Media as ‘ Public Enemy No. 1″.  The new Ghanaian player has been accused of tackling Ballack to prevent him from meeting the Black Stars at the World Cup. The Portsmouth player however has vehemently denied the allegation and apologized for the reckless tackle.

Boateng’s tackle on Ballack did not look premeditated but it has emerged that the two have a history of not getting along and Boateng could have been holding a grudge against Ballack for a remark  the German captain allegedly made four years ago during a game when both  played in the German Bundesliga.

The story goes, Boateng  had just scored his first goal for Hertha [Berlin]. Hertha Berlin’s next match was against Bayern Munich and Boateng got into an argument with Michael Ballack. Ballack it is alleged said to him, ‘You’ve scored one goal, and you think you are the best’.

Boateng’s defenders however, argue that his decision to play for Ghana instead of  Germany is the reason that the German press is so critical of him.

While German Coach Joachim Loew was shocked and feels Ballack’s absence was a ‘severe blow’ for the team’s prospects. Ballack’s agent threatened to to sue Boateng for setting out to intentionally injure the German captain; Michael Ballack , who has won the English Premier League title and the FA Cup playing for Chelsea this year was ‘angry’ but was also philosophical.  “It’s football and you have to live with it,” he said.

Article first published as Germany’s Fears Realised: Ballack out of the Soccer World Cup on Technorati.

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Leeds United send Manchester United crashing out of FA Cup

Jermaine Beckford’s 19th minute facile goal for Leeds United sent the Premier League Champions Manchester United crashing out of the FA Cup in the third round creating history of sorts. Never before has Manchester United Lost in the third round ever since Sir Alex Ferguson took over the reigns of the club 23 years ago in 1986. Last time Manchester United lost in the third round was in 1984.

Manchester United were unable to respond despite throwing the kitchen sink at the League One club. Both teams created almost equal number of breath taking chances but Beckford’s goal remained the difference between the two teams till the end. The final few minutes, when Leeds just about held on rebutting wave after wave of Manchester United attack, were arguably the most exciting moments of the entire season. Leeds fans were seen either deliriously shouting their guts out or praying fervently for it is not everyday that Manchester United are humbled in their own home ground, Old Trafford.

FA Cup games have a charm of their own as here is an opportunity for the ‘Davids’ of lower leagues to slay the ‘Goliaths’ of the Premier League. That is exactly what Leeds united did today. Teams from lower leagues come here in pursuit of a dream to beat the Premier League giants while Premier League teams take the field to defend their reputation. Leeds United will be celebrating their dream win with a unabated fervor as the rivalry between the two clubs is so legendary that it is popularly known as ‘War of the Roses’ alluding to the strong enmity between the historic counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire dating back to the 15th century. Though Leeds will not like to be called minnows but they were definitely Giant killers today.

After the game Sir Alex Ferguson said,”Leeds had far bigger appetite than us,” Though unhappy with the stoppage time allotted at the end of the match, he for once, offered no explanation or excuses for his teams surprise defeat, “Human beings can always surprise you but we didn’t expect that today. We didn’t start right, Leeds got their goal and it was something to hold on to.”

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