A header by Jonathan Woodgate four minutes into the extended session provided the margin of victory for Tottenham over Chelsea in Sunday’s Worthless Cup Final, and the Telegraph’s Henry Winter can barely believe the losers mounted such a feeble challenge, writing “it is hard to believe Nicolas Anelka joined from Bolton simply to mark Alan Hutton.”
To Woodgate the spoils, to Avram Grant the brickbats. Like a profligate heir, Grant has now squandered half the family silver he inherited from Jose Mourinho. Like a startled fawn, Chelsea’s manager failed to react when the team cried out for guidance, for inspiration. Steve Clarke delivered the rallying cry before extra-time. Grant listened.
A manager who never lost a cup final in England, Mourinho would have raged against the dying of the light, exhorting his players to find something extra, enacting one of his substitute master-strokes to vary Chelsea’s danger. The Blues’ huge army of support, who became so used to trophies under Mourinho, deserve better than Grant.
An authority figure? No chance. When Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and John Terry lost it with the excellent referee, Mark Halsey, at the final whistle, Grant froze again.
Only a timely run from his assistant, Henk Ten Cate, defused the tension. For all the recent eulogies to Grant about his being a high-class manager, even a worthy successor to Mourinho, the Far-From-Special One has faltered when the pressure has been most intense. Grant’s decision to start Frank Lampard ahead of the fitter Michael Ballack certainly backfired. Lampard is a magnificent thoroughbred, but he needed a few more runs on the gallops before such a demanding race as this.
With the quality of personnel at his disposal, Grant should be reaching finals. So he has failed his first big test. He was also asked by Roman Abramovich to make Chelsea more entertaining but there is a joylessness about Grant’s teams, a machine-like quality that will never endear Chelsea to neutrals or purists.