Sacked in the morning
By Nick Webster
New Chelsea manager, Rafa Benitez would've expected a hot reception from the Stamford Bridge faithful on his debut however even a man as experienced as him must have been taken aback by the seething distain that poured down on him from the stands on a wet and miserable Sunday night in West London.
With visitors, Manchester City, seemingly powerless to inflict more damage on the Spaniard, Benitez will feel he got off lightly because one could only imagine the riot that would've taken place had City taken all three points instead of sharing the spoils.
With Chelsea's billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich looking on from his luxury box, it's tempting to wonder if regret played across his impassive face as his newest puppet took all the flak. It's also tempting to wonder why he would hire the man who was on the opposing side of the most controversial goal conceded in the history of Chelsea Football Club, namely the 'ghost goal'. The stats will always say Luis Garcia scored for Liverpool on that epic night at Anfield in 2005 but you'd be hard pressed to find a Blues fan who would agree with Rafa Benitez, the Reds manager that night.
For much of the tepid bore draw versus City much of the action did take place in the stands as abuse directed at Benitez was replaced with cheers of support for the man he replaced, Roberto di Matteo. The Italian who was fired on Wednesday morning has a special place in the hearts of Chelsea fans. Not only did he win them an FA Cup as a player scoring the 2nd fastest final goal in history but he then did the impossible by winning Abramovich and the supporters the trophy they cherished the most, the UEFA Champions League. To be dumped so callously six months later has been a more than a bitter pill to swallow, it has caused a case of acid reflux that even the strongest of medication cannot cure.
Benitez has been charged with changing Chelsea, but how to change something as dysfunctional as a club that has no loyalty to the men who are meant to set the tone. Nine managers have come and gone since the Russian revolution began and the degrees of their popularity has been marked.
Jose Mourinho will forever be the favourite with di Matteo a close second, while Avram Grant will be relieved that he'll now be consigned to the record books instead of the man who replaced Mourinho to become a target of the Mathew Harding Stand boo boys.
Will Benitez ever be loved by the Bridge, never, there is too much history involved. The best he could wish for is to win a trophy this year and hope that former Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola decides to return to football next summer providing him with an exit paln. He could then leave London with his reputation restored but I fear with the apathy and vitriol of the fans against him he'll find it impossible to send them to their real purpose if life which is to drive the team forward. The atmosphere now is not one that Mourinho could survive in.
Knee jerk reactions are standard procedure in football as Abramovich proved by sacking di Matteo, unfortunately the reaction to Benitez was not knee jerk, it had been coming for close to eight years.