Moment of truth looms for Hammers manager Grant

WEST HAM UTD vs BIRMINGHAM

UNDER-SIEGE West Ham manager Avram Grant has put talk of the sack on hold as he prepares for a 24 hours that could make or break his tenure.

Grant leads the Hammers into tonight’s Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Upton Park seeking to earn the club a first trip to Wembley since 1981.

But the price of failure could be costly for the Israeli, with his future sure to be on the agenda at a board meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Grant is the bookmakers’ hot favourite to be the next top flight boss axed, with West Ham rooted to the bottom of the table following last week’s 5-0 thrashing at Newcastle.

“I have answered this a thousand times,” said Grant when asked about his precarious position yesterday. “We are here because of the semi-final. It has been 30 years since West Ham were at Wembley and this is a big game for us. That is what is important for me now.

“It is a big game and we have had some good results in the last six matches, so we want to continue with this and succeed in the first leg, although nothing will be decided tomorrow.

“I’m dealing with the problems on the pitch, and we’ve done that well. We still have some, so I am trying to deal only with this. The results in the last few weeks show we are doing well, they can always be better, but we’ve been doing well.”

If Grant needed any extra motivation, West Ham owners David Gold (inset) and David Sullivan are desperate to see off their former side, having spent 16 years at the helm at St Andrews.

“It is very important to them,” he added. “When you leave a club, you have some emotions, but you want a good result against them. It’s important for everybody here. It’s also important for Birmingham, It’s a big, big tie.”

The Hammers have won three and drawn two of their last six, and enjoyed a memorable 4-0 quarter-final triumph over Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Yet they remain the division’s basement side and continue to be linked with moves for a replacement, with former Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce tipped to come in for Grant.