The fans loved and respected Roberto Di Matteo as much as he loved and respected our football club. The feeling’s mutual Robbie. He is a Chelsea legend, both as a player and as a manager. His position in the echelons of our club’s history is assured, fans will sing his name and will forever remember those cup final goals and that giddy night in Munich. There is little doubt that he did not deserve to leave in such undignified circumstances, especially given the progressive steps his change in playing style had already achieved. We’ve been a delight to watch at times this season and we easily can be again – but the tide needs to turn against Fulham.
Rafa Benitez’s history with Chelsea is one, not littered with joy, but with bitterness. Countless sour, turgid encounters with his laborious Liverpool side over the years have resulted in a nasty rivalry between the clubs, one that too often veers into unpleasantness. Us fans remember the legends, we remember the great goals, but we also remember the low points and the odd snide comment from opposition managers. That’s the thing with fans, when you treasure memories, it can often be difficult to forget the good, the bad or the ugly.
During the home match against Manchester City the fans unanimously let their feelings be heard. The crowd applauded throughout the sixteenth minute and lauded Di Matteo’s name, as fitting a tribute to a Chelsea great as the Dave Sexton minute of applause before the kick-off. Boos were resounding, placards waved at every opportunity, chants vehement – we didn’t want Rafa Benitez, he wasn’t our choice to be manager. Now he knows it and the board knows it. This interim manager is an uneasy alliance but fans have been clear that’s all they want – a short term arrangement.
For me the point has been made, everyone knows where they stand. But what always comes first is Chelsea Football Club and I think the last thing this side needs (four without a win) is a lack of support from the stands. The last thing the side needs is feeling like the crowd are on their backs. As a club and as a team we need to pull together as there is still an awful lot this side can achieve this season. The fans need to get behind the team as much as we can, even if they cannot bare to get behind the interim manager. If ever there was a time the team needed our support, as yet another managerial sacking rocks the boat midseason, it is now.
When Avram Grant took over from Mourinho it looked hopeless. But the team, the fans and the club pulled together and it took us within a whisker of glory on a number of fronts. It doesn’t take much to see the similarities of then and now. If anything Benitez is a more capable coach with more experience than Grant, he might be able to steady the ship in similar way to Grant and get this side picking up silverware. The players want trophies, the owner wants trophies, the fans want trophies – even Rafa Benitez wants trophies for Chelsea Football Club. We’re all on the same page, now it’s time to see what we can do this season.