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Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 14:12 UK

Avram Grant hails Portsmouth FA Cup 'fairytale'

FA Cup Final, Chelsea v Portsmouth:
Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Saturday 15 May Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live , live text commentary on BBC website and live on ITV

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Grant looks forward to 'miracle' final

Portsmouth manager Avram Grant has claimed that his side's run to the FA Cup final has boosted the competition.

Grant faces a Chelsea side hoping to complete their first league and FA Cup Double on Saturday.

And Grant believes that victory for the beleaguered south-coast club after a season that saw it enter administration will add to the Cup's mystique.

"Nobody remembers if Chelsea or Man United win the Cup. This final is good for English football," he said.

Grant, who led Chelsea to the 2008 Champions League final during his stint in charge at Stamford Bridge, added: "There will be a final between Chelsea and Manchester United - so what? Chelsea and United is good for the Champions League final. But it doesn't add anything to the FA Cup.

"Everybody remembers when Sunderland beat Leeds United. This is what football in England is about. This is the fairytale," added the Israeli, recalling the 1973 final when the then-second division North-East club stunned FA Cup holders Leeds 1-0 at Wembley.

"This is the only place in the world where this can happen."

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Portsmouth finished bottom of the Premier League after a season which saw them change ownership four times and docked nine points after being forced into administration in March.

"The Premier League should be proud of us," Grant added.

"They should go to each and every one of our supporters and say 'you kept the true spirit of the Premier League alive'.

"When I look from the outside I don't believe it. It's impossible. How can we do it this year, go to Wembley with so much pride with our heads held high? This is why I was so happy after the semi-final.

"Tottenham are a team that's scored a lot of goals - goals against Chelsea, Arsenal, Man United - everybody. Against us for 120 minutes, with a lot of injuries and players who couldn't play for us, they couldn't score. We score two and win. It was amazing", said Grant of Pompey's semi-final upset of Spurs.

"All through the Cup I've felt good. We said there are many things that we can't change that happen off the pitch. To be in high spirits with good character on the pitch, this is something we can do."

Pompey keeper David James was in goal the last time the club were at Wembley, when Harry Redknapp led the side to FA Cup glory in 2008.

But the 39-year-old England international believes that success had a detrimental effect on Pompey's fortunes.

"It has had a terrible effect on the club over arguably the last 18 months," he said.

James relishes FA Cup opportunity

"Qualifying for Europe was financially and physically damaging for the club.

"What we spent two years building up as a decent resilient side was pretty much undone in a couple of months.

"To offer people the opportunity of big bonuses to qualify for Europe seems like a pretty safe bet, simply because you do not anticipate a club like Portsmouth winning the Cup and our league form in the first season I was here, as much as it was progressive, would not have led us to believe we were going to finish in the top seven.

"Had we not won the FA Cup, bizarrely it would probably have done us a lot better, because we would not have qualified for Europe and would have been able to build on two decent years of progression.

"Having won the Cup, the financial impact was crippling and then as a squad we just were not kitted out to be able to sustain the European campaign, as well as league and cup campaigns which followed. We ended up suffering on both fronts."

Despite the catalogue of setbacks, James is delighted the relegated Hampshire side have at least given their supporters something to smile about this season.

In football you do not need to have fear - you need a lot of desire and passion to try to do your best

Tal Ben-Haim

"Before the semi-final, people pointed out the long odds for us to get anything out of the Spurs game," recalled James, who is out of contract in the summer.

"That was more than just proving other people wrong - I think we proved ourselves right.

"Now after what has been a traumatic season in the Premier League and off-the-field, it is great for Pompey to have something to look forward to."

Portsmouth defender Tal Ben-Haim believes the Fratton Park outfit have to show "no fear" if they want to upset the Premier League champions.

"In football you do not need to have fear. You need a lot of desire and passion to try to do your best," Ben-Haim stated.

"After the game if you come back to the dressing room having done your best, even if it is not good enough we will not be very, very disappointed. But in one game anything can happen."

Like compatriot Grant, Ben-Haim had a spell at Stamford Bridge, making 13 first-team appearances after joining on a free transfer from Bolton before departing for Manchester City a year later.

"I know all the players, yet even though I trained with them, I don't think Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba or Nicolas Anelka do the same movements. They are unpredictable," said the 28-year-old.

"But I have also played against them before so it is not something to get too excited about."



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see also
Chelsea 1-0 Portsmouth
15 May 10 |  FA Cup
Terry '100% fit' for FA Cup final
13 May 10 |  Chelsea
Ancelotti wary of Cup final shock
13 May 10 |  Chelsea
Terry criticises FA over Wembley
15 May 10 |  FA Cup
Grant unsure of his Pompey future
09 May 10 |  Portsmouth
O'Hara to make Cup final decision
10 May 10 |  Portsmouth
Portsmouth debt goes up to 135m
06 May 10 |  Portsmouth
Tottenham 0-2 Portsmouth (aet)
11 Apr 10 |  FA Cup
Aston Villa 0-3 Chelsea
10 Apr 10 |  FA Cup


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