Why Chelsea Fans Have to Get Behind Interim Manager Rafael Benítez

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Why Chelsea Fans Have to Get Behind Interim Manager Rafael Benítez
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Many diehard Chelsea fans are not pleased with the recent hiring of Rafael Benitez.

"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need."

—The Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

 

Almost all Chelsea fans would probably say they most certainly didn't get what they wanted last month when owner Roman Abramovich appointed Rafael Benítez interim manager of the club and sent the beloved Roberto Di Matteo packing.

And the way some diehard Blues backers continue their public displays—whether pro-Di Matteo or anti-Benítez or some combination of the two—it seems it will be quite some time, if ever, before the new guy feels that he has total support from the fans.

With Chelsea fans having been through this coaching carousel so much lately—nine managers and counting now in the Abramovich Era—many are already looking forward in anticipation of who the next Blues manager will be when Benítez goes.

There's no doubt Abramovich couldn't have seen this much backlash coming when he hired the former Liverpool manager to try to snap the Blues out of its fall funk but even with his track record, he must be a bit surprised at the sheer amount of utter public disdain toward his most recent decision.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Roberto Di Matteo hoists the UEFA Champions League trophy over his head after Chelsea's historic win at Bayern Munich in May.

Part of the problem lies in the popularity of Di Matteo, a modest and unassuming man who once played for the club and a guy who successfully turned the Blues' sinking ship around in March following André Villas-Boas' short reign at Stamford Bridge.

Di Matteo dramatically led Chelsea to historic wins in both the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in May—the latter the club's first European championship in its storied history.

And not only did the fans love Di Matteo. The players obviously did too.

But when you're appointed manager of one of the planet's most expensive and high-profile franchises like Chelsea—similar to the NFL's Dallas Cowboys or MLB's New York Yankees—the only currency you can provide to a billionaire owner if you're the manager is wins, and if the wins don't come, your job is going to be in jeopardy.

Toss in the omnipresent sports media coverage in our modern 24/7 information age where every game is something to judge players and coaches by and you have a walk-on-eggshell environment where one is almost predestined to fail.

After all, only one team can win any given league every season.

Should a team's season be deemed a failure if it doesn't win its league championship?

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Outstanding teams like Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich in European football and the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers in American football all failed to win their leagues last season.

Surely they all can't be deemed failures, can they?

Like it or not, most managers know winning is expected going in and especially with much vaunted clubs like Chelsea, the Cowboys and the Yankees, it seems finding a way to finish on top is almost impossible with so many new parts each season, the media pressure and the reality every opponent has your game circled on the calendar.

There's definitely nothing wrong with high expectations but it's important to consider how many other teams in any given league are also thinking the championship should be theirs.

So it's important for the wiser Chelsea fans to make an effort to at least support the 52-year-old Spaniard at this point in time even if they don't necessarily like him, his appointment or some of the things he's said about their club in the past.

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Rafael Benitez is 2-2-1 in his first five games in all competitions as Chelsea manager at Stamford Bridge. The Blues play in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinals against Monterrey on Thursday in Japan.

He's your team's new manager and nothing you or I or anyone else thinks or says is going to change this situation so probably best to just ride the horse in the direction he's going...for now.

Benítez has demanded the team be in better shape and made an effort to improve that, stressed improving the defense that has always been a strength of the Blues and also wrote an open letter to the fans saying he understands and that he will do everything in his power to make the Blues better.

And whereas the Yankees and the Cowboys haven't been as triumphant as owners Hank Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones would probably like of late—the Bronx Bombers' last World Series win was in 2009 while the last time Dallas won the Super Bowl was 1996—at least Chelsea can say it won both the English Premier League (2009-10) and the Champions League (2012) over the past three years.

So at least King Roman's itchy trigger finger has produced some positive results and some wonderful memories recently.

For now, what Abramovich, Chelsea and its fans hope to get out of Benítez is a guy to help lead a young team to jell together, play up to its potential in the Europa League and try to secure a top-four finish in the EPL and, with it, qualification for the Champions League tournament next season.

Martin Rose/Getty Images
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has certainly proved that patience in his on his list of priorities for his west London club.

Even it Benitez successfully does all that, some diehard, myopic Blues fans will still have a bitter taste in their mouths about his hiring.

But they should look no farther than the source of Benitez's hiring as well as Di Matteo's firing—Abramovich—to cast their blame properly and realize there are some good things and some bad things about having such a filthy rich and demanding man as their club's owner.

Only time will tell but maybe, just maybe, Benitez is just what Chelsea needs at this point in its history.

And it's better to back him through all this as there are still many games and tourneys to win on the not-too-distant horizon and the EPL season still isn't even halfway over.

Give the guy a chance.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11

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