Monday 7 April ~
So the Premier League title race is not yet over. Chelsea beat Man City 2-0 on Saturday and as Man Utd only drew in the snow at Middlesbrough yesterday the gap between the top two is down to three points. While the advantage still lies with Alex Ferguson's team they have yet to visit Stamford Bridge. The game between Chelsea and Man Utd on April 26 is now being billed as a title decider (unusually for such matches these days, it's scheduled for 3pm on a Saturday). But Chelsea's continued involvement has led to yet another reassessment of the man who continues to confuse the press and fans alike, manager Avram Grant.
Chelsea's win on Saturday led to conclusions that would have been unimaginable at any another time during his time in England and Grant's points record was compared favourably to José Mourinho's. The Israeli's initial reception here was certainly lukewarm, predominantly due to the fact that he wasn't Mourinho, so tabloid subtitles such as "Blues took too long to get Grant" indicate a shift. The statistics bear this out. Mourinho only managed 11 points from the first six games of the season, leading to Grant's coy statements after the Man City victory: "We didn't start the season that well, so we've needed to chase after others. The psychology of doing that is not easy."
Grant has not been popular throughout the season yet every time he appeared particularly vulnerable his team have reacted, forcing the media to alter their view. After the insipid loss to Tottenham in the Carling Cup final, Chelsea continued their progress in the Champions League and after Grant's self-proclaimed worst day of his career, an FA Cup loss to Barnsley, Chelsea now find themselves in a strong position with opposing managers singing his praises. At the weekend, in response to questions about personal criticisms of Grant, Sven-Göran Eriksson went as far as explicitly commenting on the differing personalities of successive Chelsea managers: "In that way, there's a big difference between Mourinho and Grant. I hope he's stronger than that, because who could care less."
But Chelsea fans still refuse to sing Grant's name and the "puppy-eyed coach" divides critics in his own country too. This could change in the weeks ahead – Chelsea face Fenerbahce a goal down in the Champions League this week but can overcome this and if the game on April 26 goes their way Grant could claim an unlikely double. If no honours are taken to west London this year, however, he will become a surreal historical footnote to the 2007-08 season.