Avram Grant's celebrations after steering Portsmouth into the FA Cup final were tinged with sadness as he prepared to make an emotional pilgrimage to honor family members who died in World War II.
Debt-ridden Portsmouth's remarkable 2-0 victory over Tottenham on Sunday coincided with the start of Holocaust Memorial Day in Grant's native Israel and throughout the semifinal Grant wore a black armband.
However traumatic Portsmouth fans may feel their season has been with the club nearly going out of business, it's all put into perspective for Grant by his family's history.
When Grant travels Monday to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau for the annual March of the Living, he will be remembering family members who froze or starved to death in a Russian forest after fleeing Poland in 1941.
March of the Living (Archive photo: AP)
Providing added poignancy for Grant is that he traveled to the commemorations in Poland two years ago the morning after guiding Chelsea into the Champions League final.
"It's emotional – I wanted to win anyway, but for the second time it has happened, to reach the final at this time," the Israeli said in broken English. "It's more than symbolic."
This time Grant won't be traveling with his father. Meir Granat died in October shortly after urging his son to return to management at Portsmouth. Granat was the only family member to survive Siberia and had to bury his parents and siblings – some of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
"My father suffered a lot but he was most optimistic guy I ever met in my life," Grant said. "He said don't live in past, live in future. My father was always happy, never hated people, even when they did wrong."
Belief and courage
That optimistic outlook inspired Grant as he battled to keep Portsmouth in existence as the owners were forced to seek bankruptcy protection.
"I tried every day to keep the club alive and give hope to people who didn't do anything wrong," Grant said.
As a result of entering financial administration, Pompey were docked nine points by the Premier League, which doomed them to relegation. That was confirmed Saturday by West Ham's victory over Sunderland.
But Grant, who was discarded by Chelsea after missing out on the 2008 Champions League title on penalties, has pulled off an incredible achievement by beating a Tottenham side packed with many of the players Portsmouth was forced to sell to raise cash.
"We had a belief and the courage to win this game, we knew we could do it," Grant said. "They are a good team with a great manager, but tactically we played very well. The players gave their hearts. It was not easy.
"Five players were not 100% and some players did not play in their right position, and we did not even have one defender on the bench. In spite of this we played football, scored two goals and I could not ask for more."
Now Grant is looking to end the season – and potentially his stint at Portsmouth - by beating his former employer Chelsea in the May 15 FA Cup final.
"This club, this year, I will not forget it all my life," Grant said.