The Calvin Report: 'Interim One' can give two fingers to hate mob

The charade of theatrical anger achieved nothing and benefited no one

The Blue Peter Massive were unhappy with Rafa Benitez, and wanted the world to know it. At last all those hours in GCSE arts and craft classes, all that money spent dry cleaning trousers smeared with paper glue had a purpose.

They brought home-made banners excoriating Benitez to Stamford Bridge, added their excruciating puns about not being in-ter-im (geddit?), and played to the TV gallery. "Not Wanted. Never Wanted" read a missive from the Shed. "You're Not Welcome Here," sang the Matthew Harding Stand.

"Stand up if you hate Rafa," parroted the mundane majority during a convenient lull in a strange, staccato game. "Stop the Nonsense," whispered the voice of reason. Roman Abramovich, wise man, was nowhere to be seen.

It was business as usual, an afternoon of petty point-scoring and sustained puerility. Steve Clarke, the visiting manager, received a standing ovation. The name of Jose Mourinho echoed around the ground and the usual 16th-minute homage to the memory of Roberto Di Matteo was enthusiastically observed.

Where once Liverpool fans carried gold-framed portraits of a well-upholstered Benitez pouting proudly in the style of a Soviet dictator, Chelsea fans concocted a blown-up, black and white photograph of him, pasted it to a cardboard base and added "The Interim One" as if it was remotely clever and new.

Perhaps the saddest sight was a girl of no more than 12 who held up a fluorescent "Rafa Out" banner strung between two poles. "You're getting sacked in the morning," observed the WBA fans, who have presumably been living in a cave on a remote island in the South Pacific for the duration of Chelsea's 100-day war.

The man himself, hands thrust deep into trouser pockets as he shuffled on the artificial surface of his technical area, remained impassive. He maintained the pretence of positivity afterwards, and evaded enquiries about the wisdom of his midweek observations. "The question is where we are now," he said. "We'd like to enjoy this."

Clarke insisted the subplot was "not my concern". He refused invitations to express sympathy for his opposite number and suggested: "I don't think it is right for me to comment on other clubs."

Perhaps, but the prevailing petulance demeaned everyone involved and highlighted the consequences of tolerating toxicity. It was juvenile, a charade of theatrical anger which achieved nothing and benefited no one.

Benitez would have been justified in treating his assailants with the contempt they deserved; instead of wearing his dark grey club suit and thin black tie, he should have walked out in a full waiter's tuxedo and served isotonic drinks from a silver salver. The pantomime really was that pathetic.

Fans have a right to express their views. The average supporter has an elephantine memory and harbours a grudge with the relish of a Mob boss. No one wishes to diminish their financial and emotional commitment, but when that passion is applied incontinently and unpleasantly, they belittle the conventions of loyalty.

Organised opposition by supporters tends to generate more heat than light. Great causes, such as the sustained fight of Portsmouth fans for the right to shape their club's destiny in defiance of sustained neglect by a series of opportunists, are few and far between.

Conscripts to Newcastle's new-model army couldn't wait to scribble their names on the armistice when the so-called Cockney Mafia dazzled them with the glint of gold and the occasional imported hero.

The anti-Glazer movement at Manchester United has quickly dwindled to a rump of refuseniks. A few still wear the trademark green-and-gold scarves, but more as a source of warmth during this endless winter than as a symbol of rebellion.

Arsenal's conscientious objectors will doubtlessly be bought off, if the strategically timed promises of extravagant spending in the summer are realised. Liverpool's Sons of Shankly have been anaesthetised by regime-change and a PR campaign of such blissed-out relentlessness it could have been conducted by the Moonies.

That is the way of things. For all the shrillness of football's supposed democracy, and the half-truths and misconceptions which mutate on phone-ins and in chat rooms, all fans are ultimately interested in is the release of victory.

Chelsea's problems are, of course, deep seated. Even if Mourinho arrives at the gates of Stamford Bridge in a golden carriage pulled by unicorns, he will be denied clarity and consistency. He will wonder in whom he can trust, despite his first-hand knowledge of the mediocrities and malcontents who wield influence, real or imagined.

Chelsea have a conspiracy theory when they should be following a strategic plan. There is a self-defeating culture of leaking and an obsession with internecine strife. The sight of Benitez yesterday carried its own health warning. He is as disposable as a crisp packet. There is a sense of futility to his ordeal, no matter how well rehearsed he is. "I am a professional. I have a passion for football," he said, wistfully. They shoot horses, don't they?

Suggested Topics
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary