Rafael Benitez reaction: Board backing essential for managers, says Tony Pulis

The Chelsea interim manager is on the edge

Stoke boss Tony Pulis today said he was “very privileged” to have the relationship he has with his chairman, acknowledging in the wake of Rafael Benitez's outburst that not all managers are lucky enough to have such strong boardroom backing.

Speaking after Chelsea's 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, Benitez turned on those who gave him the title of 'interim manager' when he succeeded Roberto Di Matteo in November, and the fans who have never forgiven him for guiding Liverpool to the 2005 Champions League final at the Blues' expense.

Benitez's relationship with club owner Roman Abramovich is coming under scrutiny but Pulis said only the Chelsea manager would know what level of support he has.

He said: "What goes on at Chelsea goes on at Chelsea - I can't control that. In terms of what Rafa is going through, the best person to talk to is Rafa.

"Every manager has a different relationship with chairmen. I have had different relationships with other chairmen at other football clubs to what I have got with Peter (Coates).

"I'm very privileged to have the (Coates) family here, who are absolutely fantastic people. If I want to see them, I pop down the road and it is five minutes if I jump in my car. The door is always open for me to go and see them.

"Ask Rafa what his relationship is like with Abramovich or the people in power there. He is the only one who can answer that - and from that stems everything.

"When I first came into football, Bruce Rioch said to me the greatest relationship in a football club is between the manager and chairman. That was 20-odd years ago, and Bruce has been dead right. The relationship between yourself and the person who runs the football club is paramount to how the football club really projects itself.

"As a football manager, I am extremely lucky here. Other managers are not so lucky."

Asked whether players cared about the manager's job title, Pulis replied: "You can call me anything you want. The most important thing is that the people who are working for me have to show me respect. I don't care what I am called - especially behind my back!"

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez enjoys a good relationship with fans at the DW Stadium despite now being involved in a fourth successive relegation battle since taking charge at the club.

Martinez was a popular figure during his playing days with Latics and has retained much of that support - a situation in contrast to that experienced by his fellow Spaniard at Stamford Bridge.

But Martinez was unwilling to be drawn too much on that subject as he met media to preview his side's game against Liverpool this weekend.

"I didn't see it last night but as a manager you are working 100 per cent every day to try to affect the things you can affect," he said.

"Obviously there are many issues you can't affect and you can't do much about it. As a manager that can make your job a little bit harder.

"But it is difficult to comment from my point of view. When you are involved in our situation, I don't think there is too much time to look elsewhere. I can't really comment."

Martinez admitted the title of an 'interim' manager was one he was not familiar with.

He said: "It is something you need to ask a solicitor. I don't know if it has anything to do with football. I have no experience on that so can't give an answer. It is something I haven't seen before."

West Ham assistant boss Neil McDonald can understand why Benitez should become antagonised, but he also believes supporters of any club have the right to air their grievances.

McDonald said: "He's obviously frustrated, I suppose, in a way. You have to deal with that, don't you? It's always difficult coming into a football club not being the 'manager'.

"He hasn't had the results he probably wanted but at the same time he's trying to do his best. That's all you can do as a manager.

"Sympathy... we're all in the same situation. If we don't get the results we're under pressure and if the team's not playing as well as what it has done in the past, then the crowd have got every right to voice their opinions and that's what he's had to deal with at the moment."

Reading boss Brian McDermott understands Benitez's frustration at being given the 'interim' title, having experienced a similar situation himself.

He said: "That is the title that the job was given. When I got the job here in the first place I was caretaker manager. It was called caretaker then until I got the job as the manager. That is kind of how it is.

"The title was 'interim manager' and I understand that that title doesn't look to be a permanent title, I would suggest, so I can see from Rafa's point of view that wouldn't be the title he would have wanted."

Regarding the constant jeering Benitez has had to endure during his Stamford Bridge reign, McDermott added: "It isn't pleasant but that is how it is. That is football, and fans want to see teams that are winning."

Fulham manager Martin Jol also had sympathy for Benitez, saying :"I feel for any manager who is not well-liked and he wasn't well-liked from the start so I feel for him.

"He is a professional so he will probably do his job until the end of the season."

PA

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