What prompted it remains a mystery – but Benitez’ apparent “rant” last night felt like it was a long time coming. The alliteration unfortunately was transparently too tempting the British press to turn down, but what we heard in our interim’s press conference yesterday, sounded less like a rant to me and more like a sequence of simple, honest and plainly true statements of fact. I think it’s safe to assume Benitez would have wanted to stay on as Chelsea manager next season, but now it’s been made clear to him that there’s zero percent chance of that happening.
Where does that leave us? Exactly where Rafa said it did, last night. We want to be in the Champions League next season; that’s the objective the manager has been given; he’s a professional and he’ll give his all to make sure it happens. It doesn’t matter if we win every game from now until the end of the season – he’s leaving in May for absolute certain.
Reviewing Benitez’ work objectively, it’s easy to be critical. In hindsight perhaps a lot selections and substitutions weren’t the correct ones to make. Benitez hasn’t avoided this. After the game against QPR he attempted to absolve the fans by blaming himself entirely when I think even the most modest of managers are entitled to ask for just a little bit atmosphere from a home crowd (if it wouldn’t be too much trouble). Those who want to call him a hypocrite for turning attention on to the fans, at this stage, can twist his words and the facts how they like – but everything he’s done so far, he’s done with the interest of the team in mind, including attempting in vain to make a martyr of himself, to appease a petty group of supporters who couldn’t care less what he says.
Reviewing the contribution and performance of the fans since Benitez took over, objectively, only the most deluded of ‘Rafa-haters’ could begin to acquit themselves of any culpability. If you accept the three simple premises that 1) Fan support can motivate players 2) Motivated players win more often and 3) “Fuck you Benitez” is less motivating than “Come on Chelsea”, if follows surely easily enough for anybody to realise that all of this vitriol and pessimism being stirred up is having a negative effect – and it’s THEIR FAULT.
It’s true at the beginning RB vowed to win supporters over by winning games. I’m sure at that stage he didn’t realise that a fair sized group of fans existed who despised him so much that they’d rather Chelsea lose matches and he leave, than Chelsea win trophies and him stay! How can anyone begin to conquer that level of contempt in 6 months? What can you say other than the truth – that these people are a damning negative influence? Ultimately if we don’t finish in the top four this season, it’s these fans who will suffer, not Benitez, as he pointed out. He’ll go and get another big job fairly easily, meanwhile, which top manager will come and work with a dysfunctional Chelsea side that isn’t even playing in the Champions League?
Why can’t these fans see that we’re all on the same side here? And now they know for sure that they’re getting what they wanted, which among them but the profoundly idiotic are going to continue hurling abuse at the coach instead of singing/chanting support for the team.
One criticism I think it’s fair to make of the coach’s comments last night, is his assertion that his ‘interim’ title was a mistake by the club. Ultimately if he didn’t want to be interim he shouldn’t have the signed the contract. The opportunity to work with these players must have been worth the dent to his pride that label would cause – that’s how it must have seemed back in November anyway. Now it seems clear that the mistake was hiring him at all. The main errors of judgement from the hierarchy of the club were 1) Thinking that a coach renowned for his methods which improve sides slowly over time, was ever likely to have a significant positive impact and 2) Thinking that our supporters were united enough and mature enough to, not even support, but tolerate a coach they didn’t like for just six months, for the overall good of the club. Compared to these actual ‘massive mistakes’, the ‘interim’ tag seems like only a trivial detail not especially well thought through.
I don’t what else there is to write or say. This has to be the end of the issue now. All the cards are on the table, from this point if people are still stupid enough to waste their breath and pollute Stamford Bridge with hateful chants and banners then that’s fine, they can join us in paying for it next season. Meanwhile, Rafa will be on holiday perusing the job market and di Matteo will be sitting at home thinking “for f*** sake, why are they still singing that there’s only one me”?