As a lifelong Chelsea fan, I don't particularly like Rafael Benitez. I don't rate him as a manager, I didn't want him and don't want him at the club and I feel he's largely been culpable for many dropped points, lost games and lost competitions since he's been in charge.
His tactics, team selection and substitutions have been baffling at times, he's not addressed many obvious failings within the side, and the team have regressed under his stewardship.
He cannot hide away from the fact he has the worst win rate of any manager during the Roman Abramovich era and that he has overseen a three-point deficit on Manchester United grow into a gaping 19-point chasm. Nor can he deny that ultimate responsibility for missing out on the Capital One Cup and FIFA Club World Cup lie at his door.
He has not managed to spark Fernando Torres into life, and a top-four finish is now at it's most precarious point of the season, yet despite all of the conclusive and continuing evidence against him, I fully agree with what he had to say in his post-match rant following the Blues' 2-0 FA Cup fifth round win at Middlesbrough.
Speaking to the BBC's Alistair Yeomans, Benitez said:
I’m really a little bit disappointed with some fans, a group of fans singing and I think they are not making any favours to the team. They have to support the team instead of wasting time doing banners or singing songs. What they have to do is support the team and create a good atmosphere in Stamford Bridge.
If they continue singing and talking then I think they are not making any favours. They have to support the players, they have to support the team, I have experience as a manager, I will do my best until the last day.
If they want to carry on wasting time with these things because they have an agenda, they have to take responsibility if something is wrong.
They have to support the team and everyone has to stick together and we can achieve what we want to achieve – that is the Champions League.
What they have to do is to support the team, to support the players, and everyone has to stick together and we can achieve what we want to achieve – that is the Champions League.
At the end of the season I will leave, they don’t need to be worrying about me.
The Spaniard's words have prompted further fury towards him from the fans he has openly criticised, but I back Benitez on this and I feel the team's support does have to take some responsibility for where the Blues find themselves at the moment.
The anti-Benitez brigade have been vocal at Stamford Bridge since he took charge in November, and how can such derision have anything other than a detrimental effect on the on-field performances?
The atmosphere in the stadium has been poisonous, and this has undoubtedly led to some tepid home shows in which the players appeared fraught with tension.
Against Manchester City, Fulham, QPR, Southampton and Swansea, there was little vocal backing for the side as derision was hurled at Benitez, but it is the fans' duty to back the side through thick and thin, regardless of grievances against any one individual.
It is up to the supporters to rally the team to turn defeats into draws and draws into wins, but the backing from the stands has been distinctly lacking since Benitez took charge, and this reflects more badly on the "support" than it does on Benitez.
When encouragement has been needed, very little has been given. The fans are supposed to support Chelsea, not Benitez, and the support for the team has not been what it could––or should––have been.
Benitez is limited enough without having to fight against 40,000 fans not getting behind the side he is trying––and largely failing––to manage. The boo boys can blame Benitez all they want, but they are in denial if they cannot accept that they have contributed and exasperated an uncertain situation
The former Liverpool manager was never anyone's favourite choice to take over from Roberto Di Matteo, but in taking umbrage at his comments made whilst in charge of the Reds, certain sections of the Chelsea fanbase have proved themselves to be fickle and hypocritical.
The one's taking out their angst on Benitez are also bullies and cowards, because there has been next to no movements against the board, who's regular mismanagement of the club landed Benitez in the role in the first place.
Was it Benitez who has sacked multiple managers? Was it he who so badly constructed a squad to compete this season? Was it he who has frittered millions of pounds away on silly signings that were never going to work? Does he employ advisors with no connections or qualifications to the club to hold such roles? Is he the man who has overseen a decade-long––albeit trophy-laden––farce?
Of course not.
Everyone knows who's really to blame for the shambles that is Chelsea FC, but will anybody have the guts to organise a demonstration against Abramovich and his henchmen?
How many audible protests have you heard at Stamford Bridge about Abramovich's handling of the club? How many banners have you seen criticising his decisions and how many songs are aimed at the Russian oligarch? None. Nil. Nothing. Not a jot. It's easier to take things out on Benitez.
It was the same with Avram Grant, it was the same with Andre Villas-Boas and it will be the same with whoever next comes into this mess and isn't capable of delivering instant success under duress from multiple misgivings from above. It's no wonder Pep Guardiola ran a mile.
And whilst we're on the subject of new managers, how many Chelsea fans would want Roberto Di Matteo to return this summer? Everyone was up in arms about his dismissal––and rightly so––but very few Chelsea fans would choose to have the Italian in charge again.
That just about sums up the cowardice and hypocrisy. Benitez has only been trying to do a job. It may not have been a very good job and he's been ultimately responsible for it going wrong, but he's certainly right about the effect of the negative support.
Chelsea fans can play the blame game, but those who have abused the interim manager are in absolute denial if they cannot accept that they have also contributed to where Chelsea are at the moment.
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