Israel rarely springs to mind when mention is made of world football’s heavyweights, with the country yet to make any significant impact at any major international tournament. Still, certain illustrious sons of that small nation, such as 'super-agent' Pinhas Zahavi and coach Avram Grant, have succeeded in placing it firmly on the sport's map.
The experienced Grant has successfully completed his interview for the vacant Black Stars coaching job and, according to close sources, performed remarkably well and is thus in line to be the new head coach of Ghana, barring any last minute hitch.
Certainly, appointing a world-class coach like Grant who has seen it all in world football and has handled various African players – including our own Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng (at Chelsea and Portsmouth respectively) will be the wisest option for the Ghana Football Association.
Grant's professional coaching career started at age 18, in 1972, when he was appointed as trainer for his hometown club, Hapoel Petah Tikva's youth team.
Spending over a decade in that capacity, he was promoted to the first team coach's office in 1986, leading the club to two Toto Cup victories – in 1990 and 1991 – thus bringing Hapoel Petah Tikva back to the top of Israeli football after nearly 25 years of futility. The very next year saw the club win the Israeli Cup – its first major title in 30 years.
The following season, Grant moved to coach rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv where he won Liga Leumit (as Israel's top division was then known) in his first season, boasting a 13-point advantage over the team that came closest.
Grant then headed to Maccabi Haifa in 2000, where he worked for some two years. There, he achieved great success, winning the Israeli Premier League in 2001 and 2002. The latter campaign saw him come just a trophy short – winning the Toto Cup yet narrowly missing out on the Israeli Cup – of claiming a treble of silverware.
After leaving Haifa in 2002, Grant was assigned the Israeli national team job and became the youngest ever to obtain that privilege. Under Grant, Israel finished an unfortunate third in their Euro 2004 qualification group; and despite going unbeaten with four wins and six draws, they again came up short in the qualification series for the 2006 Fifa World Cup, ending up behind France and Switzerland in their group.
On a much bigger stage, though, Grant became Technical Director for Premier League outfit Portsmouth and, after replacing Jose Mourinho as Chelsea boss in 2007, he led the Blues (who he originally joined as Director of Football) to a maiden Uefa Champions league finalist appearance, only to lose 7-6 on penalties to domestic rivals Manchester United. That same season saw Chelsea earn runners-up spots in both the league and League Cup.
Forced out of Stamford Bridge in May 2008 for no apparent reason, the Israeli intimated to close acquaintances that he felt "betrayed, upset and angry" by the decision of Roman Abramovich, his personal friend and billionaire owner of Chelsea. In contrast to the hysteria that had greeted his predecessor's departure, Grant's sacking was met with apathy all over the world as he had transformed Chelsea into a rather delightful side to watch.
A return to Portsmouth saw Grant appointed as head coach and the stand-out feat of that reign, the club's progression to the FA Cup final in 2009/10, remains quite a remarkable achievement in a season tagged as the worst in Pompey's history.
Against a backdrop of financial Armageddon, and consigned to a relegation he could do little to avoid, Grant's management of the club in that era was seen as a portrait in dignity.
After a spell at West Ham (which culminated in yet another demotion from England's elite division), Grant joined Serbian side Partizan Belgrade and promptly guided them to a fifth consecutive Serbian championship triumph.
At the time of applying for the Black Stars job, the 59-year-old served as Technical Director for Thai outfit BEC Tero Sasana, where Ghanaian Gilbert Koomson plays professionally.
What does he bring to the table?
One of the biggest attributes of Grant which would be of immense benefit to the Black Stars is his impressive ability to unify. While in charge at Chelsea, he successfully bridged the gap with/between those players who were still loyal to the departed Mourinho and other squad members who had grown disaffected to wonderful effect. That season [2007/08], Chelsea garnered 77 per cent of all points available (74 from 96), finishing just two points off the top. And but for that inopportune John Terry slip in Moscow during that year's Champions League final, Grant would almost certainly have won Chelsea's first European Cup.
Coupled with his experience and record of excellence at the highest level, it's apparent there really could be few worthier of the Ghana head coach position than Grant.
On almost all counts, he trumps the other options.