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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas