Grant saved as O'Neill snubs Hammers
Martin O'Neill has performed an U-turn and rejected overtures from West Ham United to become their new manager - leaving Avram Grant clinging to his job, possibly all the way until the end of the season.
West Ham are reaching the point of deciding whether to back or sack Grant - and it will now come as one of the biggest shocks of the season if the Hammers board actually back him.
But Grant surviving is now a distinct possibility, according to ESPNsoccernet sources. Speculation is mounting that O'Neill has had a change of heart and is no longer as strong in his conviction that he will take the West Ham job, even if the club sacked Grant. In fact, O'Neill has now indicated that he is no longer interested, and there has been frantic talks to get him back on track.
Feelings within the West ham board room are mixed about axing Grant in any case, and it is being felt that it might make more sense to spend the compensation it would take to pay off Grant to put toward purchasing another players desperately needed to shore up one of the weakest squads in the Premier League.
After days of boardroom silence, and non-stop rumours that Grant will be replaced by O'Neill, the anticipated axing might not actually take place. Grant and Sullivan built their reputation at Birmingham by sticking by their managers and would like to repeat that feat at Upton Park, if at all possible.
Yet, the entire media were so convinced of O'Neill's arrival, that it was widely reported as 'fact' that Grant was experiencing his final game against Arsenal, and would be replaced irrespective of the outcome against their North London rivals. However, as ESPNsoccernet reported, no decision had been taken definitively prior to the game against Arsenal.
Equally, there is no doubt that the board lost faith after the 5-0 humiliation at Newcastle, and despite back-to-back cup wins, were deeply concerned about the threat of relegation, considering the long-term harm for a club suffering £80 million of debt, a sum much higher than eventually suffocated Grants' former club Portsmouth last season.
However, what has not been taken into consideration is that while Gold and Sullivan are loathe to sack Grant, they would also consider it bad business practice not to look at the alternatives and options. While O'Neill is an enticing figure, he is not willing to jump at a job which is so short-term and perilous to his reputation.
Meanwhile, West Ham are still chasing £7 million striker Demba Ba, who failed his medical at Stoke City last week. West Ham have also been chasing the Hoffenheim goalscorer for some time and have been linked with a string of strikers, including Tottenham's Robbie Keane and Cardiff City striker Jay Bothroyd.
Bothroyd is destined for Newcastle, but a proposed £4 million move by Birmingham for Keane has collapsed, and the Hammers have the chance to revive their offer of a £1 million loan fee to Spurs for the striker as well as taking up his £65,000-a-week wages.