***NOTE: At the time of writing, Rafa Benitez is still (interim) Chelsea manager. However, Early Doors has tried to future-proof this article by talking about him in the past tense.***
Rafa's gone.* (*Again, he hasn't, but ED is talking as though he has.)
His departure, inevitable.* (*Ignore this bit if he doesn't get the sack.)
After three months of abuse from his own supporters, Benitez finally snapped and last night took on the fans, then had a pop at the board for inserting the word 'interim' into his job title.
And yet, however tempting the alliteration might be, this was no rant.
We're talking about a couple of sentences, calmly delivered during post-match interviews.
It wasn't a rant. Or a tirade, an outburst or even a broadside. And it certainly wasn't delivered on a whim.
He repeated himself, almost word for word, on the radio and in the press conference, suggesting this was premeditated - in fact, he appears to be reading from a piece of paper in the TV footage.
And it was very hard to disagree with.
"This group of fans are not doing any favours to the team, while they are wasting time singing and preparing banners. They have to concentrate on supporting the team. Every game they continue singing and preparing banners they are wasting time."
Rafa, of course, refers to the pathetic A4 printouts brandished at his first game at Stamford Bridge, and periodically since.
Typically, they contain this sort of thing:
Of course, having a go at Chelsea fans for their props is a risky tactic, given the bile thrown at him for his comments about their stupid plastic flags, made when Liverpool manager.
The other quote for which Chelsea fans revile Benitez comes from 2007 runs as follows:
"Chelsea is a big club with fantastic players, every manager wants to coach a such a big team. But I would never take that job, in respect for my former team at Liverpool, no matter what. For me there is only club in England, and that’s Liverpool."
Not exactly controversial stuff.
Also - IT'S NOT A REAL QUOTE! IT WAS MADE UP MY SOME GUY ON TWITTER AND PARROTED BY JOURNALISTS TOO LAZY AND STUPID TO VERIFY IT, OR TO NOTICE THAT IN 2007 LIVERPOOL WERE BENITEZ'S CURRENT CLUB, NOT HIS FORMER CLUB!
It's now fairly well-known that this quote is a hoax, and yet people seem not to care.
That's what separates Benitez from any run-of-the-mill unpopular manager. Chelsea fans don't just think he's bad at his job - they actually hate him personally. Which can't be very nice, especially as he's done very little to deserve such scorn.
It is one of football's golden rules: you don't criticise the fans. Even when they're telling you to f*** off twice a week.
Last night Rafa behaved like a teacher at the end of his tether, lashing out and clipping a particularly obnoxious pupil.
It cost him his job*, but it must have felt good. (*You know, unless it didn't cost him his job)
Benitez also had a go at Roman Abramovich and board, saying: "Chelsea gave me the title of interim manager, which is a massive mistake. I'm the manager."
Of course he's right - stability and certainty about the manager's position are important to any club.
However, all Chelsea gaffers are interim managers whether or not it says so in their job description.
And didn't he know the job title when he signed up? And if not, why not?
So Benitez departs* as another victim of the existential angst that pervades Stamford Bridge. (*Unless he stays)
Whenever ED goes to a Chelsea game, it can't get over how unhappy their fans are. At the opposition, at the ref, at their own players.
Why are they so upset all the time?
There is a fine Chelsea blog cheekily entitled: 'We Ain't Got No History' - but to an extent it's still true.
Chelsea are not a historically 'big' club. They don't have a broad fanbase. Their success, their reputation, their popularity, derives almost entirely from what they do on the pitch.
They have been hugely successful for a decade, but if the success dries up what are they left with? Not much.
Take Liverpool fans - secure (often too secure) in the knowledge that they support an iconic team. They can withstand decades of underachievement without threatening their status as one of the great names of world football. Without trophies, Chelsea are nothing.
Benitez had the gall to point this out (or at least hint at it) when at Liverpool, and for this he was never forgiven.* (*Unless Chelsea fans forgive him.)
Unlike his seminal 'Facts' press conference, last night's comments were not any sort of meltdown.
He has absolutely nothing to lose since everyone hates him and he was leaving anyway.* (*Probably)
Far from a rant, it was more a weary acceptance of defeat* - I'm not going to win these clowns over, so I might as well be on my way. (*Unless it wasn't)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Celtic boss Neil Lennon asked if his players lacked hunger in the 2-1 defeat at Motherwell: "If that's the case they won't play here again. They can find another club and I'll play the kids. If they waste any game at this club and I detect that in their play, which was apparent in some cases, then it gives me a lot to think about. I'm pretty angry with some of the performances."
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