Forget 'interim' talk, Blues need stability

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Rafa Benitez: Chelsea's 'interim' boss

Rafa Benitez: Chelsea's 'interim' boss

TEAMtalk guest blogger Tom Reed reacts to Rafa Benitez's tirade and suggests Chelsea now go and appoint the most capable coach available.

A stress-induced scarlet hue stained Benitez's cheeks as he poured scorn on the powers that be at Chelsea after Wednesday night's 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough.

Observers are used to the circus that has surrounded the Blues in recent years, but this sideshow was a new low with Benitez announcing he was to leave at the end of the season. Strangely enough, for people wondering what had got into him, it was the term 'interim' that riled the Spaniard most. Seemingly pushed to exasperation by a new raft of protests at his tenure which bordered on abuse at The Riverside, Benitez flippantly broke the news that the Chelsea fans weren't to worry because he was moving on in May.

The ex-Liverpool gaffer emphasised how futile it was to be labelled an 'interim' manager, a move which in effect meant that his time at Chelsea was over as soon as it started. And he had a point. What chance did Benitez have of creating order in the vacuum left after Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal? Not only did the former Valencia man have to be sensitive to the ageing yet undoubtedly powerful senior pros at the club, but he also had to integrate a group of technically gifted yet fragile foreign imports. What was clearly a time of transition for Chelsea was lost amongst the hype of an outfit which reeks of entitlement, steered by a man thrown like a lamb to the slaughter.

Benitez said he was "surprised" that the term 'interim' was used and accused Chelsea of adding it as a 'get out of jail free' card by a Blues board who had appointed a Liverpool legend after dismissing a Chelsea one. He went on to criticise a section of the Chelsea fanbase who, in their determination to oust the Spaniard, threatened the world's rainforests in their rampant placard manufacture.

The criticism of Chelsea fans however was the only wayward note in a remarkably lucid rant for they are as loyal as they come. It's only by supporting a club through thick and thin that hardcore fans feel so aggrieved when wronged.

Benitez was closer to the mark when showing his disappointment with the Chelsea board whose strategy for dealing with managers is becoming increasingly myopic. It could be argued that Benitez was suffering the hangover from the Andre Villas-Boas affair, the Portuguese boss himself beaten down by the backlash from a board-backed attempt to streamline the dressing room.

The most important factor, lost amongst the never-ending media trash being thrown around Stamford Bridge, is that these public relation disasters are not becoming of the club. This is an outfit that made their name mixing grit with glamour, the elan of Peter Osgood and the determination of Ron Harris. Quite what the modest and cerebral Dave Sexton would have made of all this is anyone's guess. In Sexton's day, Chelsea were an outfit who, despite the glitter of the Kings Road, were expected to walk the walk. There's too much chatter coming from West London at present.

Surely it's now time for Roman Abramovich to institute a core strategy at the Bridge based on quiet stability? With the European Cup in the bag, it would be best for the Blues to stick to the orthodox route of hiring the most capable coach available and letting him get on with the job. If the Chelsea chairman finds himself getting an itchy trigger finger, then he might find alternative things to do on his 557-foot mega-yacht. Perhaps he could make use of a certain Spanish deck hand, avoiding the term 'interim' of course.

Tom Reed



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