Chelsea fans' fury is more nuanced than Rafael Benitez - the Interim One - understands
Benitez spared unholy abuse at the Bridge as true Blues remain faithful to the team
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Monday 04 March 2013
So the great day of fury that some feared and all expected at Stamford Bridge never really came to pass; in south-west London the Circus Maximus it was not.
The lame-duck manager, who has attacked his own board and supporters, limps on to fight another day, and even he must have been surprised that Saturday's reception was not worse.
The chanting against Rafael Benitez was slightly louder than normal, but it was not sustained, and the support for the team at home was better than any time since he joined.
Even despite the talk of the arts and crafts wing of the Stamford Bridge faithful mobilising in the days after the interim manager's fateful pronouncements, it was hardly a sea of placards to match a Tea Party rally. The ones that were displayed followed a similar one to the chanting. You are only interim, we are here for the long term. One banner hung over the second tier of the Shed End read "Divided we fall #RafaOut".
A football writer had claimed that we were making Benitez's point. Yet the one divisive figure at the Bridge is the one in the dugout and his presence has drained the support's will to its lowest possible ebb. So the chanting was split between making our anger clear and fully backing the players.
The fans just want the Interim One gone and this season to end with a Champions League spot, so the damage caused this year does not turn into something more long-term. Saturday marked one game ticked off in the league; 10 more to go.
Chelsea fans are sick of rival supporters and writers in the media telling us that our anger is not directed at the right person, that Benitez is a good tactical manager and, haven't we made our point yet?
It is pretty rich that a fanbase that has widely been denounced as "plastic" in the Abramovich era has been pilloried for sticking rigidly to a principle that it believes is fundamentally damaging the club. And if the powers that be believe that they have escaped criticism, they are mistaken. Saturday perfectly summed up the extraordinary mix of emotions, which few rival clubs have ever experienced all at once.
So while the boos rang out, the fans wanted to show the players that we are still here. Still behind them, and to borrow from a certain D:Ream song, that things can only get better.
Nick Clark is a season-ticket holder at Stamford Bridge
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