Rafael Benítez’s Riverside rant marks a refreshing change for Chelsea fans
Rafael Benítez's Riverside rant was refreshing but the Spaniard will regret elements of his Chelsea reign, writes Harry Kemble
Rafael Benítez finally spoke his mind on Wednesday after Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Middlesbrough, three months after taking the job of interim coach.
At the Riverside Stadium – 255 miles from Stamford Bridge – where a solid performance from the west Londoners proved too much for the Championship side, the Spaniard passionately spoke out at both the fans and the Chelsea board after the FA Cup clash.
The former Liverpool boss strongly criticised the club’s decision to put ‘interim’ in his job title, a choice he called a “massive mistake”.
And he decreed that the supporters who have abused him from the very start are “wasting their time” because he “will leave at the end of the season”.
Benítez even went on to suggest that Chelsea’s erratic form has been due to the destabilising impact of the supporters’ chants against him, particularly at Stamford Bridge.
Clearly, this is the latest – and possibly the last – of a long list of public gaffs by Benítez.
By including the fans and his employers – the club’s core – into his outburst, he has seemingly burned his bridges four months before his caretaker contract ends.
But strangely, Benítez’s words had a refreshing effect.
He finally revealed his true feelings following weeks of PR psycho-babble after declaring he was only here to “concentrate on the next game”, to “improve the players”, and to “finish in the top four”.
A little honesty could have prevented Chelsea’s malaise from seeping out into public on Wednesday.
By refusing to acknowledge his comments about Chelsea fans when still in charge at Liverpool, ignoring the contractual issues of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, and an inability to answer any questions put to him with a hint of emotion has hampered his tenure from the start.
Human nature responds to true sentiment, and if Benítez had delved a bit deeper things could have panned out rather differently.
Before accepting the role of interim manager, Benítez had been out of work for two years – a lengthy period for any top coach.
Although Chelsea would not have been high on his list of preferred clubs, the 52-year-old was desperate for a return to management – and to England – if at all possible.
So when Roman Abramovich came knocking, Benítez did not hesitate in saying ‘yes’.
It is a shame that in his haste to accept the position, more thought did not go into how Benítez would persuade the vast majority of the fans that he was the right man for the job.
Those who have derided him will surely raise their eyebrows at what the fixture computer has thrown up next – West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies have seen off the last two Chelsea managers, including Benítez’s predecessor Roberto Di Matteo, with a run of mixed results ensuring Roman brought down his axe for the eighth and ninth time since his take over.
Will Benítez be the 10th before his contract runs out?
His Riverside rampage, coupled with his sixth defeat as manager against Manchester City since taking over could certainly spell the end for him come Sunday morning if West Brom get a positive result.
How Rafa will have wished he had done things differently.