Soccer/ Carling Cup / Me and My Shadow

The English papers yesterday tore through Avram Grant after his Chelsea fell to Tottenham Hotspur in the Carling Cup final, mentioning the name of the previous coach almost as often.

"Jose would not have blown it," proclaimed the headline of a Daily Mail column, referring to former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho. "Five finals under the Special One and yes - you guessed it - five wins," the column pointed out. "Defeat on the grand stage yesterday is the first final they have lost since Roman Abramovich lifted the mattress and spent 578 million pounds on a hobby horse. Time, perhaps, to crack the whip."

The Sun made it all too painfully clear what it thought in its headline, "Bring back the Special One." Another column made this jab: "So Avram Grant managed to achieve something that even escaped Jose Mourinho. He lost a cup final with Chelsea." The tabloid conceded "Grant may have lost just three of his 34 games in charge," but "all three have been in the games that matter: against Manchester United, Arsenal and now the Carling Cup final." The conclusion? "Grant's a loser in key matches." Another Sun pundit made his sentiment clear: "Bring back the Special One."

Alan Hansen, a former player, put Grant in stark contrast to his predecessor. "One of Jose Mourinho's greatest qualities was his ability to make quick, decisive substitutions the moment he thought things were not working out. Grant's early record stands comparison with Mourinho's start at Chelsea but not when it comes to changing a game," he wrote in The Telegraph.

Dominic Fifield of The Guardian wrote, "Grant curses his luck at being unable to match Mourinho's start, pointing out Mourinho's success at Chelsea but also his four for four cup final record at his previous club Porto. He also argued Grant should accept "culpability" for playing Frank Lampard and John Terry and other questionable judgments such as putting in both Nicolas Anelka and Drogba when the pair had never started a game together.

Looking ahead, Fifield wrote, "it will be interesting to see whether the selection policy is repeated when Chelsea's season, which is far from over, takes them into the latter stages of the Champions League and the FA Cup ... but the watching world is still seeking evidence that Grant, despite the fine league run in the new year, is the man to maintain Roman Abramovich's revolution."