Grant rubbished talks of Lampard being placed on the transfer list and he is confident a new deal will be tabled in the summer. “I want him in the club, and I think he will stay at Chelsea,” Grant said. “I don’t see any other idea.”
Lampard’s contract expires in summer 2009 and he can buy out the final two years of the deal, at around £8 million, under Fifa’s transfer regulations. Critics have questioned his importance to the club with age and injury concerns, as well as a trying relationship with Michael Ballack in midfield. His response to these doubts was exemplary.
In only his second appearance since returning from injury, Lampard inspired Chelsea to a 3-1 victory over Huddersfield Town by scoring twice to take his tally past the 100 mark and created a fabulous assist for Salomon Kalou as his team booked a place in the FA Cup quarter-final.
Even though Grant viewed the FA Cup as “a competition with fantastic history and importance to the supporters”, the players he fielded suggested that his thoughts are on this week’s Champions League fixture against Olympiakos. He made significant changes against Huddersfield, with Lampard remaining from the team that played Liverpool.
As a result, Chelsea may have lost a bit of shape and rhythm but their performance was smoothed out by Huddersfield’s inability to impose themselves. Chelsea scored the opener in the 18th minute when Scott Sinclair blazed down the flanks and his cross fell perfectly for Lampard, who swept low into the net.
That threatened to open the floodgates but Huddersfield held firm and instead snatched a dramatic equaliser just before the half-time whistle. Michael Collins stole in behind Paulo Ferreira, gathered James Berrett’s diagonal ball and clipped a neat finish past Carlo Cudicini.
Grant must have given his squad a dressing down as they stepped back on the pitch re-energised. In the 60th-minute, a slick move involving John Mikel Obi and Kalou ended with the Ivorian setting up Lampard who bundled in the rebound from close range.
Chelsea continued to dominate and Kalou finally etched his name on the scoresheet, after collecting Lampard’s well-crafted pass and slipping the ball through goalkeeper Glennon’s legs. Huddersfield’s fairy tale was well and truly over.
The odds were stacked heavily against Huddersfield as Chelsea have gone 58 competitive matches at home without defeat. But in their last encounter, back in 2006, Huddersfield did not fare too badly, losing 2-1 at Stamford Bridge with Eidur Gudjohnsen’s late winner saving the blushes for Chelsea.
For this match, aside from an equalizer at the end of first half and the first 15 minutes into the second half, it was a routine victory for the Blues, even with a weakened team. Huddersfield were too cautious in their approach and packed men behind the ball while Chelsea played a patient passing game (as if in a training session) looking for gaps in the defenses, without feeling threatened.
The FA Cup victory was the perfect boost to their confidence after a lucklustre draw with Liverpool. John Terry’s return to form is also good news for their Champions League campaign. It was a mini-miracle as he was not expected to return for another fortnight after fracturing three bones in his foot against Arsenal in December.
Chelsea are now on course for an unprecedented quadruple . Grant said: “We are in all the competitions. We won today and we are in the last eight of the FA Cup. We missed so many players but we stayed in all competitions.”
The reserve players have managed to gel together as a team to produce consistent results. No matter how disjointed the team Grant send out, there is always someone who rose to the occasion and drove the team on. Even the deplorable Shevchenko who has not only lost his fitness but totally forgot how to play football, has contributed with goals on a few occasions.
For me, this is the main reason for their success so far and Avram Grant deserves a great deal of credit; he has certainly achieved more than what many fans had expected him to do.
Is Avram Grant a world-class manager yet? Suffice to say, if we put Mourinho and Grant in a club like Derby, my feeling is Mourinho will outdo him by a mile. So yes, Grant has won nothing yet and he inherited a championship team with solid foundations but if he does accomplish the quadruple this season - a mission impossible even for Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho - then to h*ll with the Uefa coaching license, a new messiah has arrived.