Hung out to dry: Chelsea rule out banning anti-Rafael Benitez banners for West Brom match

Club aim to keep Spaniard in place until end of season but bitter atmosphere guaranteed at Bridge on Saturday

Chelsea have decided not to confiscate supporters' anti-Rafa Benitez banners brought to Saturday's Premier League home game against West Bromwich Albion, which promises to be yet another combustible occasion as feelings run high among fans.

The club board opted to back Benitez following his outspoken criticism on Wednesday night of its decision to give him the title "interim", as well as his first serious broadside back against the supporters who have called for him to be sacked.

For the game on Saturday, the club will only confiscate banners which they judge to be obscene or discriminatory, as well as those which are so big they require a fire certificate under health and safety regulations. Otherwise, the club will follow a policy that they permit "fair criticism" of the club, and allow supporters to make public their opinions.

There have been claims from supporters that banners were removed at home games last month, although the club say that was a question of safety rather than a move against anti-Benitez sentiments. The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge is expected to be as hostile as ever following Benitez's claim, in the aftermath of Chelsea's FA Cup victory against Middlesbrough, that there was an "agenda" against him that was damaging the team's prospects.

In spite of Benitez's claim that the club made a "massive mistake" when they gave him the title "interim manager", and claiming it was because of a fear of fans' reaction over his Liverpool past, there was said to be no appetite at the club to sack him.

The prevailing mood among the senior officials, chairman Bruce Buck, chief executive Ron Gourlay and technical director Michael Emenalo, right up to owner Roman Abramovich, was that Benitez had been placed under great strain by the abuse he has suffered since taking over the club.

The club believe that, contrary to the final days of Benitez's two immediate predecessors, Roberto Di Matteo and Andre Villas-Boas, the team is making strides in terms of performances. While the results, seven points in the league from the last six games, have not been as good as hoped, the club do not believe that, with the team in fourth in the Premier League, two points behind Tottenham, the situation is dire.

As a consequence there are no immediate plans to replace him although, as ever with Chelsea, that could yet change. The club are prepared for a difficult afternoon on Saturday with their former player and assistant manager Steve Clarke likely to get a much warmer reception in the away dugout.

As for Benitez's suggestion that the title "interim manager" was forced upon him and his Spanish agent and advisers without their knowledge, the club say in private that was not the case. All parties were aware of the situation when they embarked on what has been a rocky three months since Di Matteo's sacking after defeat to Juventus in Turin.

In a BBC interview to be broadcast on Saturday, Benitez says he gets on well with Abramovich. "My relationship with the owner is really good," Benitez said. "Every time I talk to Abramovich about football, I enjoy [it]. We talk like normal people. We share a passion for football. He wants to win.

"I have conversations with Michael Emenalo every single day. He watches the training sessions, we talk about football. My relationship with the staff, the people at Cobham, is really good, fantastic," Benitez added. "The players are fully behind our ideas."

Tim Rolls, who is the interim chairman of the newly formed Chelsea Supporters' Trust, said that it was not the case, as Benitez said, that just a part of the club's support are against him. "For him to suggest a small minority want him out – it may be a small minority who bring in banners but not a small minority who think he shouldn't be manager of the club."

There is a growing feeling at the club that, as well as Frank Lampard leaving this summer, John Terry may also be sold if the club can do a deal for their captain. Terry, 32, who has struggled all season with injury, has one year left on his contract after the summer. He has long been perceived as a political force at the club, but his and Lampard's influence has been on the wane for some time.

Benitez will hold his Friday press conference as planned today at the club's training ground ahead of Saturday's game. Clarke said that he did not see "a lot wrong" with what Benitez had said. "I think by and large we are all interim," he said. "Someone is going to come and take your position at some stage."

Baggies bother: The WBA blues

Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo were both sacked by Chelsea shortly after defeats against West Bromwich – Chelsea's visitors on Saturday. AVB left the day after a 1-0 Hawthorns defeat last March, while Di Matteo departed days after a 2-1 loss in November. Jose Mourinho also had trouble against West Bromwich, becoming involved in a touchline row with Bryan Robson during a league match in 2006.

Suggested Topics
News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

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

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
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

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London