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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May, 24, 2008

Second not enough for Grant

Avram Grant will be remembered in England for coming second.

Second in the Premier League and a losing finalist in both the Champions League and the Carling Cup.

Few will remember that he was given the almost impossible task of replacing Jose Mourinho, a man loved by fans and media alike for his engaging personality and success on the pitch.

Grant had been brought in initially to help Mourinho as director of football at Stamford Bridge.

But when the self-proclaimed 'Special One' departed Grant was thrust into the limelight by club owner Roman Abramovich, who expected him to deliver silverware.

While everyone asked about Grant's pedigree and lack of coaching qualifications the Israeli quietly went about his business.

Grant had moved to Chelsea last summer from Premier League rivals Portsmouth, where he spent a year as the south-coast club's technical director of football.

Grant had already won over a sceptical Harry Redknapp at Fratton Park and he appeared to do the same with Mourinho before being asked to fill the Portuguese's shoes.

Grant came to England after a career in Israel where he had forged a reputation for getting the best out of limited resources.

It was no secret that Grant was one of Abramovich's most trusted advisors having been introduced by agent Pini Zahavi, and it was even believed that the Russian had a big part to play in his appointment at Portsmouth.

Grant started coaching at the age of 19 having never played the game professionally. He won the youth championship with Hapoel Petach Tikva and was then appointed to coach the senior team in 1986, becoming the youngest ever manager in the Israeli top division.

Five years later he moved from Hapoel to become head coach at Maccabi Tel Aviv, and after winning two league titles in four years, took the reigns at Hapoel Haifa.

A less successful stint, coupled with a disappointing second spell at Maccabi Tel Aviv, looked to have spelt the end for the Israeli boss.

But in 2000 he took over at Maccabi Haifa and guided the club to two titles in two years and the honour of leading the first ever Israeli side into the UEFA Champions League.

His impressive domestic record alerted the Israeli FA to his obvious ability, and in 2002 he became the youngest ever manager of the Israel national side.

A disappointing Euro 2004 qualification campaign ensued, and after attracting even more controversy by travelling in secret to Tunisia to watch the African Nations Cup, many fans in his homeland were calling for his instant dismissal as Tunisia is considered an enemy country.

But Grant stayed in charge and almost led his country to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, finishing third in their qualifying group behind eventual finalists France and Switzerland.

With his head held high, he finally quit his role in November 2005 after the Israeli FA's reluctance to open new contract talks, and instead began his adventures in England.

His close friendship with Abramovich initially appeared to help his cause at Stamford Bridge as he continually had to field questions about his ability to coach at the highest level in this country.

Having taken over following Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League he lifted a team that looked out of contention in the Premier League and also took them to two finals.

But domestic cup competitions undermined his position, with defeat to Tottenham in the Carling Cup final - when his tactics were called into question - followed by an ignominious FA Cup exit at Barnsley.

However, Chelsea took the title race to the final day and also overcame jinx side Liverpool to reach their first Champions League final.

A victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 26 ensured both the Premier League title and the major honour in European club history would go to either Grant or Sir Alex Ferguson.

United kept their nerve to lift the Premier League trophy on the final day of the domestic season and also in the Champions League final penalty shoot-out in Moscow.

For Grant both proved to be a step too far - leading to Abramovich showing him the Stamford Bridge exit door.

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