James Lawton: Come on, Rafael Benitez what did you expect? It was never going to be a bed of roses at Chelsea

Last night Rafael Benitez produced echoes of the US president Richard Nixon

All the angst of Rafael Benitez came spilling out last night and if some of it was understandable enough as it reflected the pain generated by one of the worst ordeals ever endured by a leading football man, there was too an inevitable response.

It said, "Really, Rafa what did you expect?"

Did you anticipate a bed of flowers as you came racing out of exile and into the shoes of a manager much respected, and even adored by some sections of the Chelsea support? Did you think that Roberto Di Matteo's extraordinary contribution to the affairs of a club which had repeatedly broken the normal operating rules of a successful football organisation, which had treated its managers with not much more dignity than might have been accorded a series of errant office boys, would be buried in the welcome for a man so widely disliked on the terraces of Stamford Bridge?

It would have been an improbably huge ask in any circumstances and of course it was impossible to imagine any that could have been worse when Benitez was introduced to his new club against a background of hostility quite unprecedented even in the turbulence of today's high pressure football.

There was even the savage irony of Benitez's arrival coinciding with the death of one of the great figures of Chelsea, the tough and beloved manager Dave Sexton.

Last night Benitez produced echoes of the American president Richard Nixon when he believed his political career was over long before his Watergate denouement. "You wont have me to kick around any longer," he told his worst critics," and that was the substance of Benitez's outburst after another night when Chelsea supporters reminded him that he was still so far anything like acceptance.

Chelsea won their Cup-tie at Middlesbrough but there was always the sound of anti-Benitez sentiment.

It was plainly breaking point for the man who believed that his power to transform Chelsea would sooner rather than later win him a new and more tranquil phase of a career which, after success at Valencia and the extraordinary Champions League success with Liverpool in Istanbul, ran into serious trouble at Anfield and then the humiliation of a swift ejection at Internazionale in the wake of his bitter foe, and Chelsea hero, Jose Mourinho.

Benitez can now hardly conceal his bitterness towards Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea hierarchy who made it clear that his reign at Stamford Bridge would never be more than a brief holding operation.

Unfortunately, Benitez was unable to hold together a situation always threatening to break at the seams.

He says that the club's refusal to grant him any more than interim status was a massive mistake but then there is something of a pattern in Benitez's attempts at crisis management. He has a tendency to apportion blame some way from his own direct responsibilities. At Liverpool the problem was the club's errant American ownership, yet never satisfactorily explained that he was still unable to improve and re-animate the team with not inconsiderable spending power.

His failure to communicate with key players – notably the ramrod Xabi Alonso – was a factor which was never acknowledged from the manager's office and, of course, his relations with the Chelsea players has been wrapped in controversy over recent days.

His rant last night was pitched at both the fans and the ownership and at no point was there any concession that his promise of renovating £50m Fernando Torres, which may saw as the key reason for his summons to London, and a new level of team efficiency had fallen to the point where his performance record had slipped below the mark which provoked the sacking of Di Matteo.

Indeed, there was a powerful case to believe that the truly massive mistake was not in granting him temporary powers but allowing his style of management to take any root at all.

It has not, after all, ever been marked by the kind of professional compromise adopted by Di Matteo when he was parachuted into the challenge of repairing, in any kind of fashion, the vertiginous collapse of the project of Andre Villas-Boas.

Di Matteo did it with the astounding short term effect of winning both the Champions' League and the FA Cup. He also created a sense that he would conjure the best he could from players of great experience but uncertain futures. He had the nous to live in the moment and when that time came to an abrupt end, when Chelsea failed to defend their European title, he left the arena with a philosophical shrug.

Benitez doesn't do such gestures. He imposes his will and his theories and there is not much sense of accommodation with old pros who had in their time achieved a few things perhaps worthy of some respect. It will always, you have to believe, be the Benitez show, good or bad, win or lose, but last night it seemed that even he had grasped that he had been selected for the wrong stage.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album