Why Chelsea Fans Need to Change Their Mentality Next Season

Joe Krishnan@joekrishnanContributor IApril 10, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Banners are displayed by Chelsea fans prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on April 7, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In football, there is a phrase which is perhaps thrown about too often but equally does not lose its meaning in the game. Rather, the importance of the meaning of "home advantage" is to the extent that in continental competition, it is deemed crucial to the outcome of the match. 

But for Chelsea, home advantage has been non existent this season. In fact, it's had more of the opposite effect.

For many years, Stamford Bridge has been something of a fortress in West London. The Blues still hold the incredible record of 86 games unbeaten at home, which started under Claudio Ranieri in February 2004. This was maintained under Jose Mourinho and stretched all the way until October 2008 before they were finally beaten 1-0 by Liverpool.

Up until this season, Chelsea have maintained a respectable record at home, and one of the main reasons for their impressive form has been due to the positive atmosphere in the stadium.

Stamford Bridge is capable of holding over 41,000 supporters for matches, and the added bonus is that the fans are only a few meters away from the touchline, enabling them to create a lasting effect on the game.

However, the club's hierarchy obviously was not bothered by the impact of supporters' apathy on the team's success when they sacked Roberto Di Matteo just five months after winning the Champions League.

One can only assume the decision to fire Di Matteo was related to the team's failure to qualify from the Champions League group stage after losing 3-0 to Juventus, as the club were performing well in the Premier League, lying in third place just three points off the pace.

It was a bold but extremely baffling move from the club, especially when there was a shortage of world class candidates available to take the reins until the end of the season.

Undoubtedly, many will suggest that Roman Abramovich plotted to convince Pep Guardiola to interrupt his sabbatical to join Chelsea, but the Spaniard would surely never take over a crisis club mid-season without making his own changes to the squad. If that was the case, he was badly advised.

And despite free agents such as Harry Redknapp and Unai Emery, who would have been popular choices to be appointed, being available the club chose Rafa Benitez as the new 'interim manager'. Benitez was the former Liverpool manager who had criticized Chelsea constantly during his five-year spell at Anfield, and was a disliked figure in SW6. 

He even went as far as saying he would never manage Chelsea. All I would say is you can never say never in football, but Benitez was adamant. Eight years later, he is five months into his reign as the Blues manager.

The fans were dismayed and shocked at the lack of respect shown by the board. In their view, it was as much their club as it was Abramovich's. Without their revenue, the club would struggle to stay afloat. 

And who could blame them? In their eyes, it was the equivalent of Barcelona hiring Jose Mourinho as their new manager. There was a mutual dislike between the supporters and manager, yet the decision to hire Benitez stood.

All of the sudden, all hell broke loose. Protests, interviews, banners. You name it. The fans, shocked by the board's actions, revolted and held up their signs with the obvious message: "Rafa Out!" Many believed it was just a phase which would die down.

Benitez even claimed himself that, in order to win over the fans, he would simply need to win. It simply was not the case.

He should have been right. But he could not be more wrong. Even when Chelsea beat Aston Villa 8-0, it was nothing like it should have been.

The fans made it personal, and the consensus between them was to commemorate Di Matteo by singing his name in the 16th minute of every home game. What the fans did not realize was it was not this that bothered Benitez.

It did bother him, however, when the fan's chants and lack of joy started to affect the team. Without the encouragement, the team started to struggle at home, losing games to QPR and Swansea which created even more apathy around the club.

Even when times are hard at the club, the fans need to support the team. An example of how important they are to the actual establishment is when Aston Villa fans opposed Alex McLeish's appointment. The team's form started to suffer, and even now they are still fighting possible relegation under Paul Lambert.

If the club's loyal following want the glory days to return to West London, they need to get behind the team. 

With the possibility of a Europa League and FA Cup double on the horizon, the fans need to consider making a positive movement towards the team ahead of next season. Regardless of who is in charge, the players need backing.

Failure to do so could mean a season without a trophy for the first time since 2011.