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Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Saturday, 15 January 2011

Avram Grant left in limbo after defeat


Under-pressure Grant salutes fans

Bottom-of-the-table West Ham insist no announcement will be made about the future of under-pressure manager Avram Grant on Saturday.

BBC Sport understands Martin O'Neill is being lined up to replace the Israeli, who took charge of West Ham for the visit of Arsenal at Upton Park.

The Gunners went on to inflict a 3-0 defeat on the home side in that match.

It was only West Ham's second loss in eight games but Grant looked disconsolate as he left the pitch.

The 55-year-old Israeli applauded fans as he departed and threw his claret and blue scarf into the crowd before heading down the tunnel at Upton Park.

O'Neill, 58, quit Aston Villa out of the blue on the eve of this season.

"O'Neill and West Ham have been in talks over the last week and it seems he will be the new manager," said BBC sports news correspondent Dan Roan.

"There was a board meeting on Wednesday after which club owners David Sullivan and David Gold refused to publicly back their man and it seems a decision has been taken and this will be Grant's last match in charge."


Grant, who succeeded Gianfranco Zola in June, led the Hammers to their worst start in the Premier League, with his side winning only two games before the end of November.

However, recent positive results, including a 2-1 victory against Birmingham in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday, suggested he might have won a reprieve.

On Friday, Grant declared himself unworried by speculation concerning his future at the club.

"It doesn't concern me. I have a job here and I have to focus on that. I love the vision of the club. It's a big, big challenge," the West Ham manager stated.

"We have made progress on the football side. We are at the bottom but we are not worse than any of the seven teams down there.

"We are two points from 14th place. I think we are doing the right things. I don't think we will be bottom at the end of the season. If I thought that I wouldn't be here."

The gap between 14th and bottom widened to five points following the emphatic defeat at the hands of Arsenal on Saturday.

A Robin van Persie brace and goal from Theo Walcott secured all three points for high-flying Arsenal and for the Dutch striker Van Persie, the game was a clear return to form.

It was a game to forget for on-loan defender Wayne Bridge, however, who was making his debut since signing for Grant's side from Manchester City.

The former Chelsea defender, who limped off in the 89th minute, was at fault for all three goals - the last of which was a Van Persie penalty conceded after Bridge had fouled Walcott in the area.

Speaking ahead of the game, BBC Sport's Jonathan Pearce told Football Focus that West Ham and Grant had held talks on Thursday.

Pearce said: "I did speak to another club source - very, very close to Avram Grant - who says events took place on Thursday night where a deal was struck with Avram.

"It does seem that Martin O'Neill is the man who is going to West Ham - which is a surprise. How unseemly a mess is this for a club with the tradition of West Ham United?"

Pearce also suggested that O'Neill would be a popular choice with supporters.

"When Avram Grant was appointed West Ham had money issues and he wouldn't have been the most expensive option," Pearce added.

"Martin O'Neill is a manager with a higher pedigree in terms of success in Scotland and in England and might well have been waiting for higher jobs to come.

"He is charismatic, he's a cheerleader, he does have that proven record and would have high hopes of keeping West Ham in the Premier League."

Northern Irishman O'Neill made his name as a manager at Wycombe Wanderers, leading them into the Football League for the first time.

He had a short spell at Norwich before landing the top job at Leicester in 1995, where he won the League Cup twice.

O'Neill then went to Celtic, where he won the domestic treble in his first season, leading them to the 2003 Uefa Cup final and winning three League titles and three Scottish Cups in total.

West Ham situation is bizarre - Lawrenson

After a brief period out of the sport to care for his sick wife, he joined Villa in 2006, guiding the Midlands club to sixth in the Premiership for three seasons running.

However, he resigned in August 2010, five days before the start of the new season, reportedly unhappy with the transfer funds available.

"The understanding from sources close to him is that he's not finished with football and he still believes he has the desire and hunger it takes to manage at the top level," Roan continued.

"I wouldn't be surprised if West Ham offered him some kind of short-term contract, perhaps a six-month deal - highly incentivised - to ensure that they do survive."

O'Neill is not the only high-profile name to have been linked with the job at Upton Park with former Ajax and Tottenham manager Martin Jol also mentioned as a possible successor to Grant.

Jol, who was in charge at Spurs between 2004 and 2007, quit as boss of Dutch side Ajax in December 2010.

Former Bolton and Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce, who was sacked by Blackburn Rovers in December, has been linked with the role.

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see also
West Ham 0-3 Arsenal
15 Jan 11 |  Premier League
Grant sets squad survival target
14 Jan 11 |  West Ham
Bridge makes West Ham loan switch
12 Jan 11 |  West Ham
West Ham 2-1 Birmingham
11 Jan 11 |  League Cup
Hammers boss Grant given reprieve
12 Jan 11 |  West Ham
O'Neill quits as Aston Villa boss
09 Aug 10 |  Football
Jol steps down as manager of Ajax
06 Dec 10 |  Europe
Blackburn sack manager Allardyce
13 Dec 10 |  Blackburn

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