Jim White

Mrs Grant gets it right

Jim White

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When it comes to a scandal, Tzofit Grant demonstrated this week that she has the right idea. No retreat behind a super-injunction for the wife of Avram, no arranging for long-lens pictures of her blubbing on a beach in Dubai, no contracting Max Clifford to sell her side of the story to the highest bidder.

Instead, the moment news of her husband's visit to a Portsmouth massage parlour became public knowledge, she did what many others ought to do: she laughed it all off. The Israeli television presenter explained that her husband required relief from the tension of managing a "crappy club" like Portsmouth. Can you imagine how awful his day job is, she asked. Who wouldn't, doing what he's obliged to do, need an outlet?

Never mind that he was snapped leaving a massage parlour, she'd be pissed off if he weren't getting a couple of sessions a day. He has long needed a bit of TLC round the shoulders, she said, and is particularly fond of Australian massage. Whatever that may be.

You have to say she has a point. Attempting to galvanise a football team in the circumstances Grant faces must bring on many a tension headache of a kind, a bit like those President Kennedy used to suffer, that needs immediate relief. And since his wife is back in Israel attending to her day job and is not able to assist in the appropriate laying on of hands, what else can a man do?

Grant's headache is not going to improve any day soon. This week the Fratton farce continued its trajectory towards tragedy. The astonishing cast of shadowy proprietors fronting strangely named investment vehicles took another turn when Balram Chainrai, a Hong Kong-based financier at the head of a company no-one has ever heard of before called Portpin Ltd, became the fourth owner of Portsmouth in less than a year.

A reluctant benefactor, he revealed that he had done so in order to protect loans he had made to a previous owner. If the club had continued on its journey into administration, the £17 million he had handed over would be worth not much more than £170,000. He made clear he had no intention of staying around for the long haul and beyond retrieving his loan he had no concern for the future wellbeing of Pompey.

Just what the poor beleaguered fans of the club didn't want to hear. Already this year they have suffered from owners who claim access to vast resources, owners who fantasise about their wealth, owners who have never been seen in daylight and now they have an owner who really only wants to be there to make sure if there is any money going round he gets his hands on it first. Misery.

Still, at least one person this week showed he understands what Portsmouth means to its community and its fans. David James had been in a sort of limbo these past few months, not being picked because to do so would push him over the number of appearances which would trigger a clause in his contract entitling him to a year's extension at £60,000 a week.

In marked contrast to his former England colleague Sol Campbell who demonstrated all the tact of a rogue elephant by issuing penniless Portsmouth with a writ for £1.2m worth of allegedly unpaid image rights, James waived his right to the contract extension. He knew the club couldn't afford it, he said, and added it was about time some of his profession engaged with the real world.

Well said.

Now sure, there is a good, personal reason why James would want to play regularly. England right now is not exactly awash with in-form keepers. Playing behind the worst team in the Premier League will give him ample opportunity to display the kind of skill Fabio Capello will need in June. But even so, his gesture was one Portsmouth needed, a fine one from a good man. As he pointed out, the club gave him some great times, now he needed to repay those memories.

Indeed maybe he should go a bit further. Maybe he and Mrs Grant should get together and form a consortium to take over the club. At least there might be a touch of humility and humour about the place. Besides, there have been significantly less appropriate owners recently. Four of them, actually.

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