Grant's heroic dad set to be Wembley guest

February 23, 2008

Avram Grant's father Meir will be a special guest at Sunday's Carling Cup final just days after celebrating his 80th birthday.

Meir, a holocaust survivor of the Second World War, is Grant's idol and the 52-year-old Israeli has paid for his dad to see their Wembley showdown with Tottenham.

Grant knew nothing of his family's fate until one night, aged 15, he heard his father screaming in his sleep and rushed into his room to find that he was having a bad dream.

His father explained that he had been dreaming he was back in the Russian forest in which he had been forced to dig graves for his parents and five brothers and sisters as each, in turn, died of cold or starvation. Only he and one brother survived.

Now Grant's proudest day as a manager will be cause for a double celebration when Meir attends the game.

His presence will be made more poignant by the fact that anti-Semitic threats were sent to Chelsea's training ground while the team lined up against Olympiacos in the Champions League.

Grant said: 'My father was 80 years old on Thursday so we are celebrating of course, and he will be at the game.

'I don't know if you know the story of my father but he is a great man, one of the greatest that I know. He is optimistic like I have never seen in my life and he suffered a lot in the age when he was young.

'He was a survivor of the holocaust and I am of the name of my grandfather that died in the holocaust. But what impressed me about him is that he always sees the positive things.

'Even now, he is optimistic. If you speak to him about the past, he says it was in the past but I live the future. He's only 80 years old. I wish him all the best. I love him.

'My father would accept everything in a positive way. Everything that happened in my life, I can only thank them for it. I have bought him his ticket - I think I can afford it!'

Meir was 13 when he and his family fled their native Poland in 1941.

'In 1941 we realised things were looking bleak in Poland and decided to take our chances in Russia,' said Meir.

'We were exiled to the far north. Guards dropped us off in a forest and said, `build a home or die'.

'It was minus 40 in winter and in such circumstances, people who are not young stand no chance.

'When I buried my father, I cut off my peyot [sidecurls] and removed my kippah. To survive, you must look forward in hope, never back.

'Avram is similar to me. He gets on with everyone and never argues but knows how to shout if people aren't working the way they should.'

Against Tottenham, Grant is struggling with the dilemma of whether to recall captain John Terry and Frank Lampard.

Both were left out of the Champions League game against Olympiacos and there is growing speculation they may miss out against Spurs.

But Grant admitted he cannot keep all the players happy all the time.

'I don't think it is possible to keep them happy all the time,' Grant said.

'But when you have a big squad, you have problems like this sometimes. I think the players have shown, until now, great attitude from the beginning when it was a very difficult time and I will not forget it.

'I think now when you speak about John Terry and Lampard that they are available to play, I think you need to respect the players that played without them.'