Benitez the latest in a long line for Chelsea
For an 'interim' measure Rafael Benitez certainly seems to be making himself comfortable at Chelsea.
November 23rd, 2012
The club this week sought to play down the appointment of the ex-Liverpool boss by casting him as a stand-in until the end of the season.
“There is a rumour it is actually an 18 month contract with a break clause,” I was told by one well-placed club source. “Ignore it, not true. Contract defo only to end of season.”
That is seriously at odds with what has been reported elsewhere, and with the approach Benitez took in Thursday’s ‘unveiling’ press conference: that there was a hope, and possibly even an expectation that he would still be at the helm in a year’s time.
He has brought in a roster of support staff: something not usually afforded to the temp. This has not gone unnoticed, and there is a widely-stated feeling among many that an attempt is being made to pull the wool over their eyes, in soft-soaping the arrival of a man the club knows is deeply unpopular.
Benitez was asked, at that coronation of a press conference, whether the quotes attributed to him by many in the previous days were true: whether he had criticised Chelsea fans and their ‘plastic flags’ for a lack of passion; whether he had said he would ‘never take that job’ at Stamford Bridge. He said he didn’t really know, and declined to answer the question. He went on to say that ‘clever’ Chelsea fans would back him – because if they didn’t they’d be hurting the club.
Looking back, it now seems clear that the actions of owner Roman Abramovich on 31st January 2011 created a watershed that has dogged this club almost daily since. He overrode his manager (nothing new there) to sign a centre forward who could not score, and a defender who could not defend – for the distended sum of £75m. Since that moment, managers have been expected to play the pair regardless of form or tactical imperative.
The results of that impulsive splurge have seen Chelsea cast aside three managers in 18 months, and now appoint a man few, if any Chelsea supporters want in charge of their club. The events of this week are not unprecedented in Chelsea’s recent history. Popular men have been fired before; unpopular replacements have been hurried into place.
Chelsea fans are a bidable lot. It is often said that no club has a greater identity with those in service of our country: the police and military who unquestioningly follow orders, because to do anything else would be disloyal. That is perhaps why the response to previous episodes of this ilk has been muted: why ‘clever’ Chelsea fans have set aside differences to back the club; to keep calm and carry on. But even the most reasonable fan can only be pushed so far. There is a sense the events of this week are different.
Jose Mourinho’s sacking was met with uproar by many; but in truth, almost as many had already concluded his time had come. Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking resulted in far more widespread dismay: though, coming on the final day of the season, it gave no potential outlet for the immediate venting of fans’ feelings.
Chelsea has created its own perfect storm: and the clouds look set to break on Sunday.