Unpopular decisions make you an unpopular person. Fact. For the first time in his nine year tenure as the owner of Chelsea, he isn’t flavour of the week at the Bridge.
Despite the hundreds of millions invested, the best training facilities and football equipment money can buy and corridors full of silverware, aren’t everything to the Chelsea faithful at the moment, as 40,000 fans mourned the sacking of club legend Roberto Di Matteo, and to say they gave Rafa Benitez a hostile reception, may just be an understatement.
You had a feeling a 4-0 win may not have changed many minds on Sunday. In fact, he could’ve walked in wearing a Tottenham Hotspur scarf and probably wouldn’t have received worse.
Rafa said in his post-match interview that it only takes two people to hold up a banner, the problem was, that each news story seemed to show a different banner. Lets be fair, it was never going to be easy following in the footsteps of Robby Di Matteo, a club legend, who had been parading these streets just months earlier, and will certainly never have to buy a pint in a Chelsea pub ever again.
‘One Di Matteo’ and ‘F*** off Benitez’ were the two most notable chants that echoed throughout the 90 minutes, and the Russian responsible sat stern and calm, surely noticing that he may well have made a bit of a mistake here.
It’s a results business according to experts, and a 0-0 draw against the reigning champions certainly isn’t a bad result, especially with a misfiring striker, whilst they did pick up their first clean sheet in 11 games, but you can guarantee that the fans here are a bit less likely to forgive a loss from Benitez than they would with Di Matteo.
Are the fans being a bit too hasty though? Abramovich sat calm and happy with his decision, and who can blame him? After all, Di Matteo won the Champions League after AVB was sacked around this time, Avram Grant got to the Champions League final, and Guus Hiddick won the FA Cup, so Roman does have history of making the correct decisions, despite being trigger happy with his firing gun.
Everyone seems to think Benitez will turn Jesus on Fernando Torres, which may well be a saving grace if he manages it, although yet again he looked out-of-sorts today, and almost like a spoilt kid at times.
Importantly, Benitez seems to believe in his own ability. He vowed to convince even the most ardent of Chelsea fans that he is the man for the job, and you have to appreciate that, especially the way that he took the job, after the previous that he and the club have had.
The fans may well forgive Roman for this appointment if he succeeds and is replaced in the Summer, but with news that Pep Guardiola is not especially keen on taking the Chelsea role, he may well be searching elsewhere for that deity he wants. Maybe his trigger-happy policy may well come back to haunt him this time.
Luckily Rafa doesn’t have to wait long to face the adorning Chelsea crowd again, he is back here on Wednesday as they face Fulham. No doubt there will be banners and chants galore, but a decent win there, which would be the first in six, may well be the first step to a long road of convincing the Bridge faithful.
Just don’t lose Rafa, or you may well have to spend Abramovich’s millions on a few more bodyguards.
By Brad Smith