Grant: Imports feel FA Cup magic
West Ham manager Avram Grant insists that he has no need to impress upon his foreign players just how important the FA Cup is to English football as he looks to book a quarter-final meeting with Stoke by beating Burnley at Upton Park on Monday night.
Grant has enjoyed success in the competition since he came to England to six years ago. He reached the last eight with Chelsea in 2008 before somehow reaching the final with financially-beleaguered Portsmouth last season.
With the Hammers currently struggling to fight off the threat of relegation, Grant could be forgiven for fielding a weakened team in Monday's game against the Championship side. But the Israeli is a big fan of the competition and intends to send out a strong XI.
It is often said that foreign players do not understand the importance of the FA Cup but Grant denies this, insisting that all his players are fully aware of the magic and tradition of a competition he considers to be the greatest domestic cup in the world.
"After we got to the semi-final last year I got calls from everyone in the world - everybody follows the FA Cup, more than any cup in the world,'' he said. "In other countries, cup competitions are not so important but here it is connected to tradition and everybody wants to be at Wembley.
"When I was at Portsmouth last year the players who came from other countries were even more excited just to be in the semi-final. They were so excited to go to Wembley. Wembley is the temple of football.''
Demba Ba is likely to start up front on Monday night after he bagged two goals on his first start for the club in last week's 3-3 draw with West Brom. His boss was reluctant to throw the 25-year-old straight into action following his arrival from Hoffenheim last month as he had not played since December 18, but he has been delighted with the Senegal international's impact.
"He is a very good player. I followed him for a long time in the German league,'' he said. "He always scored, he is always moving. It is very difficult to mark him and he hits the target. That is what you want from a striker.
"Those are the most important things for a striker - movement and being able to hit the target - and that is what he did against West Brom. I think they cleared off the line from him twice last week. He can play anywhere - right, left, behind. He is good and he is not in the best shape yet because he had a break from December 21 and we are building him slowly, slowly.''