After Sunday's 0-0 draw against Manchester City, Rafael Benitez was asked in post-match interviews and his press conference, what he needed to do in order to win over the fans. Benitez was booed unanimously by the Chelsea faithful after he was introduced to the Stamford Bridge crowd before the start of the match. The boos only subsided after the PA announcer mentioned there would be a minutes applause for Dave Sexton, the former Chelsea manager who had passed away in the hours before the game. The announcer said, 'we have some bad news for you Chelsea fans'. Many thought he was referring to Benitez.
In the history of the Premier League, I doubt a manager has received such an ugly reception, as Benitez endured on Sunday afternoon. Chants about his weight, and looks were sung throughout, whilst the crowd continued to show support for the now former manager, Di Matteo. Choruses of 'One Di Matteo' were sung at the top of each fans' voices, with Chelsea fans being sure to let Buck & Gourlay, and Abramovich for that matter, know how they felt about a Chelsea legend being dismissed so unfairly. Buck & Gourlay didn't seem to bat an eyelid when the boos rang round the stadium, and I even saw them laughing with each other, as chants were directed at these two suits. At the end of the day, these two don't care about Chelsea Football Club. They're just a couple of yes men, and their decision to dismiss Di Matteo just shows how out of touch with the fans, the board really are.
When asked after the match how Benitez intended to win over the Chelsea fans, his response was very simple. 'Win, win, win, win'. In a way, yes, that will help to calm some of the booing from the fans, but not from all. When questioned about the booing, Benitez stated he was too busy focusing on the game to hear the boos. Really? Come on Rafa. When you've got 42,000 people booing after your name is read out, surely that gives you some sort of clue that you're not wanted at the club. He would have been better off just admitting that he had heard the boos, and he would try to make those boos into cheers. But unfortunately, that may never happen for some fans.
When Benitez was at Liverpool, he was despised by the Chelsea supporters. He questioned the passion of the Chelsea fans, he accused some of our best players of being divers, and others of being overrated. Now, this week he laughed that off as simply defending his club, as any club would do. Sorry Rafa, but there's banter and supporting your club, and then there's dragging the club's name under the water, and really digging at our fans. That's exactly what Benitez did. At times in his Liverpool days he stated he would never manage a club like Chelsea, and would remain loyal to Liverpool. Bet he wished he'd kept his mouth shut now.
For many Chelsea fans, there's just been too much water under the bridge for Benitez to be accepted and adored as Di Matteo was at the club. Chelsea fans never forget, as banners said during Sunday's games. Next he'll be saying that he didn't see them. A blind and deaf manager then, a great find for Chelsea after Di Matteo! But in all seriousness, if Benitez wants to win over the fans he'll need to communicate with them, and not alienate himself as much. He needs to come out and say he's sorry for the things he said when he was Liverpool. If he was to say that, it would help his cause greatly at the club, and make his 6 months at the club much easier. But in reality, will Benitez do this? No. For him this is just an opportunity for him to showcase what he can do with a club fighting for major honours after 2 years out of management. This will be a 6 month job interview for Benitez, knowing very well that if he does well that'll he'll be in line for jobs that become available.
But as far as Chelsea goes, you can't see him staying longer than his 6 months. So therefore, why should he go out of his way to talk to disgruntled fans about their anger, when he knows he's not in the running for the job long term. Benitez has purely been brought in to 'steady the ship' when Chelsea fans will feel it didn't need steadying. They had a Chelsea legend at the helm this time last week, but now they have the ex-manager of one of our most bitter rivals of the past 10 years. That's hard for Chelsea fans to take.
So when Benitez says that the way he'll win over Chelsea fans will be by winning games, you'd have to question whether this is true. Benitez is loathed by Chelsea fans, where Di Matteo is loved. You can expect to hear Di Matteo's name sung at Chelsea throughout the season, and probably in years to come. But Benitez will continued to be booed and joked about by Chelsea fans, who will point to the manager as a reference of how much of a shambles the club has become in just a few weeks. The Premier League title may not even be enough for some fans to accept Benitez and support him, but an apology to the Chelsea fans, and allowing the faithful to see that he actually cares for the Chelsea cause as much as he did at Liverpool, would help his cause greatly. The bottom line is however, if Chelsea win games, win trophies and are successful, the players will get the credit and not the manager. Unfortunately that's the situation for Benitez. Although he may never have his name sung in a positive way at Chelsea, I don't suppose he really cares if he wins trophies which bulster his CV.
I'm sure some Chelsea fans will have felt sorry for Benitez in his post-match interview, when you could clearly see that he knew the boos were directed at him. I mean, nobody likes to see a human being subjected to the abuse he was objected to on Sunday. But for many Chelsea fans, this is very much justified after the actions and words of this man over the years in regard to the club. Make no mistake though that these boos were aimed at Buck & Gourlay as well, but the press won't pick up on that as it doesn't sell as many papers. Come May, if Chelsea have won 2 or 3 trophies over the course of the season, I'm sure the majority of Chelsea fans will thank Benitez for his work, before moving on to the next manager in this charade. But for others, this will be a watermark in Chelsea's history, that they'll wish to forget, barely 6 months after the best night in the club's history. The 2012/13 season will be another dramatic season involving Chelsea, as always. The long wait for stability, continues.