Benitez STILL needs time

I wonder what happened to 'get the right results and the fans will come around to him'? It is what almost every national pundit wrote upon the unpopular appointment of Rafael Benitez as Chelsea's 'interim' manager in November.

Benitez STILL needs time

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January 21st, 2013

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It is suggested by some that it is what Roman Abramovich himself said (shortly after his response of ‘I don’t care’ to the minions who told him the appointment would not go down well). And here we are – 6-1, 5-1, 8-0, 5-1 wins in the bag – and the opposition from a large section of fans is no less than it was.

Those highlights, of course, do not reflect on an overall picture far less complimentary on the manager’s reign: defeats at home to Swansea and QPR; handing two points on a plate to Southampton when cruising.

As that ghost of Christmas past Jose Mourinho once put it: start losing home matches, and Stamford Bridge will be on the manager’s back. He created an expectation of a fortress in SW6 that few have taken kindly to being pillaged by all and sundry in recent weeks.

There are still those that insist fans must back The Interim One. The problem is now that Benitez has done as much as – or possibly more than – the last three Chelsea managers did to get the sack. Fans have been taught not to get attached to a succeeding coach, so it seems ridiculous to tell them to get attached to a failing one. As if it was going to happen anyway.

This wouldn’t matter so much, in a poor Premier League where Chelsea may just about limp to fourth place, were it not for the infighting it is creating among supporters. One fan castigates another for a received perception that he is not backing the team; the second fights back saying he’s paid for his ticket, and will sing what he likes. Punches have been thrown: Chelsea-on-Chelsea. During those scuffles, both seem to lose sight of the fact that it is an authority far higher than either that is to blame.

So where next?

More of the same. Every game until Benitez is gone (and possibly even after), fans will sing for Roberto Di Matteo. Every game there will be anti-Benitez songs from the stands. I’m not calling for it, or even condoning it, but stating it as a fact (or should that be a “FACT!” in Benitez parlance).

More and more damage will be done to the club by the refusal of those who run it to see sense and listen to supporters. But there don’t seem to be too many tears shed high-up at Stamford Bridge about that. Chelsea are not expected to start looking for a new permanent coach until February or March (and, even if he was once in with a shout, that will surely not now be Benitez).

Pep Guardiola has gone (not that Chelsea were ever in with a shout), and Mourinho is not coming (though keep telling yourself he is, if it makes you feel better about things). Who comes next is anyone’s guess: though it has more to do with finding someone willing to do the job than anything else.

The quicker that happens, and this nightmare of a season comes to an end, the better it will be for all.

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