Tuesday 21 November 2017

Grant and Kean skate on thin ice

WEST ham 1

Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson can only look back helplessly as Junior Stanislas equalises for West Ham at Ewood Park on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images
Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson can only look back helplessly as Junior Stanislas equalises for West Ham at Ewood Park on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

Peter Gardner

Analysing such a wretched encounter was probably low on the list of priorities for Steve Kean and Avram Grant as they readily discussed their respective long-term futures on an icy weekend when the Premier League was embarrassingly reduced to just two fixtures.

For Kean, his first day in management was far from the triumphant entry he might have envisaged when thrust into the front line following the dismissal of Sam Allardyce, as Blackburn's new Indian owners quickly made their presence felt with a sacking that shocked and surprised well beyond Ewood Park.

For Grant, his stewardship of West Ham -- who extracted a richly deserved point but remain bottom on the approach to Christmas -- remains as precarious as ever after the first of what are believed to be three games he has to secure his tenure at Upton Park.

Yet he was quick to deny any such ultimatum exists.

"I spoke with the owners and it was just about football, how we can make the team stronger in January," he said.

"That's all. If someone writes something, I can't always answer it. When you are bottom of the league everybody can say what they want."


Grant remains bullish about West Ham avoiding the drop, despite having fewer points now than he had last season with Portsmouth, who were relegated.

"You can't compare," he insisted. "At Portsmouth the decisions were off the pitch; here they would be on the pitch. I cannot say they are easy times, but it's easier than when decisions are taken off the pitch.

"At West Ham I am confident we can do it. You saw with all the injuries, we came to a difficult place and were the better side.

"The performance was very important, for us to show that, even missing a lot of players, we know how to play football."

That was revealed in a second half on Saturday when, despite going behind to a scrambled Ryan Nelsen goal shortly into the second half, the Hammers tenaciously came from behind, with Matthew Upson hitting a post and Frederic Piquionne heading just over -- before substitute Junior Stanislas delivered his first goal of the season to achieve parity.

The priority for Grant is to ensure his team show the same character in their St Stephen's Day trip to Fulham.

"It's very encouraging because we still have a long way until the end of the season," he said.

"Our target is very clear, to stay in the league and more, and you can build it only if you see in the difficult times spirit and character. Everybody saw that from all the players."

There is suspicion that Kean's elevation as successor to Allardyce is merely a money-saving exercise and that he will become a puppet manager answering to owners with little footballing knowledge who confide in agencies acting in advisory capacities.

But Kean is quick to deny any such course of action.

"Anybody who knows me knows I wouldn't just roll over and do what people say. With the years of experience I have, I would hope I would be respected and be able to shape things to come. Hopefully, I can put that across to the owners," he said.

Kean, who has already expressed an interest in taking the role permanently, admitted he has no idea how long he will be in the hot seat.

"I've had a little bit of contact with the owners," he said. "Hopefully we can open up the dialogue over the next few days and get an idea of how we're going to take the club forward.

"I've just been told it's an interim period. There hasn't been a number of games put on it or a period of time."

The 43-year-old -- who was assistant manager to Chris Coleman at Fulham, Real Sociedad and Coventry -- certainly did not have the easiest of starts to his management career, with boos at the final whistle. His immediate plans have also been sabotaged, with three key players injured against West Ham and one, Phil Jones, possibly ruled out for the remainder of the season with damaged knee ligaments.

Striker Jason Roberts went off after only 10 minutes with a hamstring problem and could be out for six weeks and central defender Chris Samba took a further knock, although he could be available for the Christmas programme.

Rovers will focus on possible reinforcements when the transfer window opens next month.

"First and foremost we need to know the budget. Hopefully I can give input because I know the lads we have in the squad. I also know the ones coming through because I've been working with them closely and we know the academy group under that," said Kean.

"If Jason's out for six or seven weeks, he's going to miss a lot of games, and Phil Jones could probably be out for the season so we've got to take those injuries into consideration." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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