I get it, I really do. Why wouldn’t Chelsea supporters voice their dissatisfaction at having Rafa Benitez as their new manager? They hate him with the fury of a thousand titans, and fair play to them. Where would we be without enemies in sports? But they have to accept that this is not their club, and whatever their opinions are they can lock them away and bury them in a cold, dark corner of the world—as I’m sure Roman Abramovich would tell them.
If Abramovich wants to run onto the pitch during half-time and do a duet with Celine Dion of an AC/DC classic, we should accept it. That’s what Chelsea fans have as an owner, a man who combines the strange with the shocking, a man who seizes the day and who doesn’t care a hoot who he upsets. This time it’s Rafa Benitez who’s taking the flak instead of an owner who can’t make his mind up. But now it’s surely time for fans to get behind their manager.
It could be worse for Chelsea fans. It could be a lot worse. Who’s advising Abramovich on his appointments? No one by the looks of it. He could have stuck Avram Grant in their again, and again he wouldn’t give a damn. It’s his club and he’ll do as he pleases. Chelsea fans can enjoy his successes, but they definitely don’t have a say.
What happens if Pep Guardiola does come in next year? What happens if there’s a new flavour of the month six-months later and the owner decides he’s had enough with Guardiola and all that Barcelona business? Then what? Did anyone want Jose Mourinho gone? Hypothetically, would anyone want Guardiola gone? It doesn’t matter. All that should matter is that the current manager be given full support.
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Football in England is that farthest thing from an issue of memberships. Just the same way the NHL couldn’t care less about their fans—“the greatest fans in the world,” as Gary Bettman says. Football fans are consumers, and if you don’t like what Chelsea and Abramovich are selling then don’t buy it. In truth, it’s a real disappointment that football has come to this. Who cares how much money Abramovich has thrown into this club, he wants to create an identity for the team and one that plays good football. But shouldn’t there be some say from supporters? And that goes for every club in this country.
It’s not to say Chelsea are in a bad state and are being held together by one decent bandage, there is a very good manager at the club who has a winning record. I don’t really have time for the negative image that has been painted for Benitez, but Chelsea fans have a right to be angered considering his last English club.
What can be said is that Benitez will do right by the club, no matter what people think of him. I believe Benitez to be too proud to just come in and keep the seat warm for someone else: he’s after this job on a permanent basis. And why not? He’s good enough and has a higher reputation than both of the last two managers Chelsea had prior to his appointment.
He may get the best out of Fernando Torres, but if not then it’s probably further confirmation that the player has lost it completely. He may bring the best out of the defence and address the issue of leaking goals, but if not then I don’t blame him, these are not his players. They’re not his players, nor were they Roberto Di Matteo’s, nor will they belong to the next manager who comes in.
And that’s what Chelsea have right now, a club where they have to take the rough with the smooth. They can have all the fantastic talents they want and the trophies that legitimise their position in European football. But if they don’t like it they have no one to complain to. Abramovich won’t listen and he won’t take advice. The only thing Chelsea can do now is hope for the best; hope that their owner has picked the right manager for the situation at hand and get behind him. Whatever your opinion of Benitez is, no manager should have to be booed by his own supporters under these circumstances.