Was it the width of a goalpost that cost Grant his job at Chelsea? Grant could hardly have come closer to winning the Premiership. At one point, before Giggs scored United’s second goal at Wigan, Chelsea were one goal from the title. Twice they hit the woodwork in the Champions League Final and then they were one penalty kick away. It was a tremendous achievement. Grant had to overcome injuries and the loss of key players during the Africa Cup and yet still they kept coming. In the last weeks of the season they beat Arsenal and United at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final. And through all the speculation about his job and through all the stress of the run-in, Grant retained his dignity. When he was appointed he was universally dismissed. It was insinuated that he only got the job because he was a ‘friend’ of the owner (code for the fact that they were both Jews). No one expected him to do so well. And yet, at the end, there he was in the pouring rain comforting John Terry.
There is one thing that could be held against Grant. Chelsea need re-building. The current squad might last one more season, but that depends on who can resist the siren call of Mourinho and one last big payday in Spain or Italy as they pass thirty. Can Grant be trusted to rebuild the team that others built, Mourinho and before him, Ranieri? That’s one thing he’s not been called upon to do yet. His one purchase in January — Anelka who scored two goals in 24 games and missed that crucial penalty in Moscow — was not a success. Everyone thought it was at the time. It raised morale at Chelsea and everyone agreed Anelka was a class act. But it proved a costly mistake. It is one thing, his critics point out, to inherit a great team built by others. It’s quite another to do what Fergsuon and Wenger have done so superbly, time and again, to tear apart a great team and rebuild again. Clearly, the money men didn’t trust Grant to do this.
So Chelsea have now fired two outstanding managers in eight months. Not bad going. Of course, this is the same megalomania which saw Sven and Benitez on the verge of being dismissed. Truly Ferguson and Wenger are the last of a species — the manager who is trusted to stay on season after season. After them, the deluge.