Grant steps up following Mourinho's departure

September 20, 2007

Chelsea moved swiftly following the shock departure of Jose Mourinho as they announced that director of football Avram Grant and assistant manager Steve Clarke will take charge of the first team.

Avram Grant
Empics / MikeEgertonGrant: Now back at Portsmouth.

Mourinho, who won every domestic trophy during his time at Stamford Bridge, left by 'mutual consent', according to a club statement issued in the early hours of this morning.

Grant, who moved to Chelsea in the summer as director of football, will be assisted by Mourinho's number two and former club captain Steve Clarke.

A club statement read: 'Chelsea can confirm that Avram Grant and Steve Clarke will be in charge of the first team from today (Thursday).

'The club is delighted that in Avram we have an experienced man who can come in immediately at this difficult time to help deliver our objectives.

'In Steve we have a Chelsea man and he will be a crucial part of the management team going forward. Avram and Steve have our full confidence and support.'

Grant's appointment is understood to be permanent and will come as no surprise to many of the club's fans.

The former Israel coach has a close relationship with the club's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and moved to Chelsea despite stiff opposition from Mourinho.

Abramovich saw Grant as the man to get the best out of misfiring striker Andriy Shevchenko and Mourinho finally agreed to his arrival on the understanding that he had no influence on team affairs.

But in the light of Mourinho's sudden exit, Chelsea have turned to Grant to prepare the side for Sunday's crucial Premier League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Mourinho is understood to have said his goodbyes to the players at the club's Cobham training ground on Thursday morning.

Grant spent his first year in England living in Harry Redknapp's shadow at Portsmouth but his move to Chelsea saw him become the go-between and co-ordinator of long-term strategy, reporting to chief executive Peter Kenyon at Stamford Bridge.

The role - which reportedly earned him £800,000 a year - also included a seat on the club's board.

Grant, who is married to actress Tzofit, certainly knows how to network and also undoubtedly has the ability to charm the most dogmatic of managers.

Upon Grant's arrival at Chelsea a defensive Mourinho warned: 'He must not interfere with the power I have in relation to my job.'

Grant took up the position of technical director at Portsmouth in June 2006 and soon won the glowing praise of boss Redknapp.

'I've found [him] to be very knowledgeable, an absolute gentleman and a nice person to have at the club - he has got a good knowledge of the game and of foreign players,' said Redknapp.

That knowledge stems from a lifetime of studying football tactics and systems.

Grant began 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, becoming the youngest ever manager in the Israeli top division.

Grant then moved to Maccabi Tel Aviv, guiding the club to a first league title in 13 years, before taking over at the helm of Israel's glamour club, Maccabi Haifa, where he won two championships.

The national team subsequently beckoned and Grant entered the history books as Israel's youngest manager.

His record split opinion, however, as Israel failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup despite remaining unbeaten in a group with the Republic of Ireland, France and Switzerland.

He resigned in November 2005 because of the Israeli FA's reluctance to open contract talks.

Grant and Clarke oversaw their first training session together this morning.

A statement on the club's official website, www.chelseafc.com, insisted the players were in 'buoyant mood'.

It read: 'Avram Grant and Steve Clarke have overseen their first training session together today, following the departure of Jose Mourinho as the club's manager in the early hours.

'The pair, who have been appointed by the club's board, led a training session which included Wayne Bridge, back on the road to recovery.

'The session was sharp, with the players in buoyant mood, despite the disappointment of Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League.'