West Ham United: The Crucible of Avram Grant and Premier League Management
West Ham United face a massive test this weekend against fellow relegation rivals Wigan Athletic that is not only set to define their Premier League season, it could well end up defining Manager Avram Grant's ability as a manager.
Grant enjoyed deserved high praise last season for his work with Portsmouth, taking over following the sacking of former Manager Paul Hart after a record-breaking run of league losses.
While everyone is more than familiar with the well-publicized financial collapse that ended Portsmouth's seven seasons in the Premier League, Grant earned plaudits from most corners for his spirited attempts to keep the club up and for their excellent run to the 2010 FA Cup Final.
Supporters and the media, however, often prove to be a fickle bunch, and the stats now facing Grant and Hammers supporters are certainly not the most heartening:
Grant has spent the last 75 of 76 weeks at the helm of a club in the Premier League's relegation zone.
Staring Grant in the face is the possibility that he will be the first Premier League manager in history to be relegated in consecutive seasons, with the added possibility of being relegated in successive seasons as the bottom club on the table.
A few months ago, I went out on a limb and suggested that West Ham's transfer moves would be excellent business for the club, and the major impetus for their future survival.
Do you believe Avram Grant has a future in the Premier League?
Now, however, things are admittedly looking bleak for Hammers' supporters, to which even Football Writer's Association Player of the Year Scott Parker admitted to the London Evening Standard today.
And while the end result may no longer be in West Ham's control, Grant still has a major task in not only repairing his reputation with the club's supporters, but repairing his reputation as a manager in England.
The last season at Portsmouth proved that despite the circumstances, Grant's greatest strength lay in his ability to unite his players in the face of adversity.
That unity needs to be clearly demonstrated as West Ham's squad takes the field at the DW Stadium. This weekend's performance against Wigan and the club's penultimate match against Sunderland can go a long way to proving his capability.
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