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Abramovich picks side to face United


Avram Grant arrives at his first press conference as new Chelsea manager at Stamford Bridge yesterday

Avram Grant arrives at his first press conference as new Chelsea manager at Stamford Bridge yesterday

Avram Grant arrives at his first press conference as new Chelsea manager at Stamford Bridge yesterday

AVRAM GRANT'S credentials for managing Chelsea were cast into doubt last night when it emerged that he does not have any coaching qualifications, while his players are concerned that the Israeli will be controlled by Roman Abramovich.

To add to the air of chaos engulfing the club, Grant will not take training today, before the Barclays Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford tomorrow, because he is observing Yom Kippur.

And it is understood that in his absence, the team to play United will be picked by Abramovich.

With many questioning the appointment of Grant to succeed Jose Mourinho, his lack of a coaching badge could become a serious problem.

Under Premier League rules, a Uefa Pro Licence is required by anyone who wishes to manage in its competition on a permanent basis, which is interpreted as more than 12 weeks, while Grant does not even have the lesser qualifications, the A and B licences.

The Premier League has mentioned the problem to Chelsea and Grant still has three months to get the qualification, but it involves a rigorous series of courses and passing it may not be that straightforward.

The Premier League has waived its rules in the past, in the cases of Glenn Roeder and Gareth Southgate, but only because of what it deemed exceptional circumstances.

Both had obtained the lesser badges and begun studying for the Pro Licence before being appointed at West Ham United and Middlesbrough respectively.

Roeder's studies were interrupted when he suffered from a brain tumour, and Southgate was given special dispensation because of his involvement as a player every summer with England.

It is understood that Grant does not possess a single relevant qualification, though he does have a letter from the Israeli FA, which says that he is an experienced coach.

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He has contacted the Israeli FA asking to be enrolled on one of its courses as soon as possible, though time is of the essence.


Grant has endured a difficult start to his reign at Stamford Bridge because of the players' loyalty to Mourinho and will not welcome the fact that they are now openly discussing whether he is merely an Abramovich puppet.

Much of the players' worries are a result of a meeting at the training ground on Thursday between Abramovich, the owner, Grant and Steve Clarke, the assistant coach, at the end of which rumours began circulating of a changed team and formation for tomorrow's (Sunday) match.

Shaun Wright-Phillips appears to be the first casualty of Mourinho's departure and will be replaced on the right of midfield by Joe Cole. Florent Malouda will play on the left, with Michael Essien and Claude Makelele in the centre.

Of perhaps greater significance is the fact that Andriy Shevchenko, an Abramovich favourite, will continue his partnership with Salomon Kalou up front.

The 4-4-2 formation is also a move away from the 4-3-3 usually preferred by Mourinho and Abramovich's presence at the Cobham training centre was taken as a sign that the owner will be increasingly hands-on.

Grant, 52, insisted yesterday (Friday) that he would always pick the Chelsea team, although he conceded that his current relationship with Abramovich was not only a professional one.


"I didn't come here to talk about my private relationship with Roman," he said.

He also admitted he was "normal" in comparison with the "Special One" he has succeeded when he was introduced as Chelsea's first-team coach, though he pointed to the examples of Arsene Wenger and Fabio Capello.

"I remember when Arsene came to Arsenal, everybody was saying Arsene who?" Grant said.


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