Proud Grant furious over Europa exclusion

LONDON - Portsmouth manager Avram Grant was upset yet proud after his side lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday but furious they could not play in the Europa League next season.

More emotional than at any point in a season of relegation, administration and new owners, Portsmouth boss Grant took his place at Wembley's post-match news conference and showed reporters just what the troubled south coast club meant to him - even though he might not be there next season.

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"I think the English League shot themselves in the foot, in the heart," an aggrieved Grant said in reference to Portsmouth missing out on a Europa League spot because they did not register for European competition in time.

The club would have been eligible for the competition as FA Cup finalists because Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League.

"You cannot even imagine what has happened at Portsmouth this season, whatever you read. This is much bigger than you think, day by day," Grant said banging his fist on the table.

"The players come out, they respect the Premier League but the Premier League did not respect them. What is a bigger story than this?

"This is a fairytale of English football as I know it as a child. And they come and they say no, you achieve on the pitch but we will take you out (of Europe) because you are not registered in time.

Grant, who calmly joked with his son in the news conference, despite his angry rant compared pointed to 2005 Champions League winners Liverpool's inclusion in the 2006 competition.

"Five, six years ago, Liverpool won the Champions League. The rules were that fifth place was not in the Champions League. They change the rules because it was not logical. This is not logical - the players achieve it in on the pitch, not by paper, not by facts.

"They punish the players, they punish the club. You are making me angry now."

Undone 1-0 by a Didier Drogba free-kick after Kevin-Prince Boateng had missed a Portsmouth penalty, Grant was clearly sad to have ended the campaign with another defeat.

"It was a very difficult season. It is a season I will not forget, I have won a lot of games in my life, trophies and everything but this was unbelievable, we always played against the odds," the Israeli said.

"I must tell you it is a sad and very proud day for me because we lost, but I am very proud about how we got to the final," Grant added after being saluted by the entire Wembley crowd after the match.

Grant, who has been linked in the media with a move to Premier League side West Ham United next season, while Portsmouth prepare for a difficult spell in the Championship, did not want to comment on his immediate future.

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