Chelsea boss prepared to get tough to keep team in Premiership title race

Society Materials 2 January 2008 07:56 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Avram Grant insisted he was prepared to get nasty in order to keep Chelsea in the English Premier League title race.

The Blues boss said he was not afraid to smash up the dressing room furniture if his players needed a hard-hitting wake-up call.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is known for giving his players the "hairdryer" treatment of a full-on tongue-lashing and Grant said he had no problem venting his fury if his men weren't at their best.

"If it helps to win I can break the chair," Grant said after Chelsea came from a goal down at half-time to beat hosts Fulham 2-1 in the New Year's Day west London derby.

"Maybe you need it sometimes," he said, stressing that he normally gets his players going through a more conventional pep talk.

Stand-in Chelsea captain Michael Ballack said the dressing room was "loud" at half-time on Tuesday with the visitors 1-0 behind at Craven Cottage.

Danny Murphy scored a 10th-minute penalty, awarded for an apparent trip by Joe Cole on Moritz Volz, though there appeared to be little contact, if any.

Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou equalised with a 54th-minute header before Germany skipper Ballack won and converted a penalty in the 62nd minute following some shirt tugging by Clint Dempsey.

"I didn't say that I was aggressive," Grant, often described as being far more mild-mannered than Portuguese predecessor Jose Mourinho, said with a smile about his half-time team talk.

He added: "Basically the job of a manager is to do the right thing.

"At half-time we don't have enough time sometimes but the time that we have we can use it.

"When everybody's nervous he needs to be calm. When everybody's too calm he needs to be not calm. At half-time sometimes when you see that your players are slipping you need to wake them," the Israeli explained.

Against the Cottagers, Ballack made just his fourth Blues appearance since suffering an ankle injury in April.

For such a high-profile signing, he has generally failed to sparkle since joining from German giants Bayern Munich on a free transfer in May 2006.

But Grant said the 31-year-old midfielder was just the sort of player Chelsea need to maintain their title tilt.

The Blues are third in the Premier League, six points behind leaders Arsenal and four points adrift of Manchester United.

"Football now has become more tactical, more physical and you need to know everything about tactics, but you need intelligent players also, and he is an intelligent player," Grant said of Ballack.

"I like intelligent players because I like intelligent football. So he is important. He cannot be at his best after eight months but he is OK and he will be better.

"We have some leaders in this team and he is one of them. All of his life he was a captain, including the national team."

Ballack's return to the Chelsea line-up comes at a time when the Blues have been forced to deploy second and even third choice players due to a string of injuries and suspensions to key players.

"I want Ballack to play when we have all the players, not when we don't," Grant said.

"The most important thing is what he can do on the pitch. He can do many things good. First he can score, second he can give assists. He's a player that I like to have on the pitch. He's a hard worker."

Chelsea have another west London derby on Saturday when they welcome improving Championship side Queens Park Rangers to Stamford Bridge in the third round of the FA Cup.