Right, I don`t often write on this website (and never on any others), but this week`s events have pushed me to the brink.
Now, before we get the usual one or two leveling the "new age", "plastic fan" or "don`t remember the bad old days" jibes at me, I have been a fan man and boy for 24 years (I am only 27 now). I went to my first game when I was four, and have been to pretty much every home game (and a smattering of away games) since. I remember watching Dave Beasant let the ball dribble through his legs as we lost 3-2 to Norwich. I remember Paul Furlong messing up everything good that Ruud Gullit had done. Heck I even remember Robert Fleck, David Lee and other "luminaries" playing week in week out as we invariably scrapped for survival/mid table mediocrity.
However, nothing has hurt and affected me so much as the appointment of Rafa Benitez. So much so, that for the first time in my life, I am not going to the game on Sunday out of choice. I am not selling my ticket, or giving it to someone else. I want there to be an empty seat where I have been sitting for the past nearly quarter of a century. And I hope others follow. The reason? I can`t promise myself that I won`t boo Benitez. I can`t help myself. Every time I see him, my skin crawls. His appointment is the worst thing that has happened to this football club, and let me explain why:
1) It will completely divide the fans. It will be a very strange atmosphere on Sunday, and potentially beyond, and will completely alienate the board from the fans. Anyone who has supported Chelsea over the last 10 years will understand the hatred that has built up for Liverpool. Some of the games with Liverpool have been the most bitter I have ever been at. And all this was stoked by a fat Spanish manager winding up Chelsea fans, managers and players with his regular criticisms and jibes. He wound up Didier Drogba so much in fact that Drogba felt the need on one occasion to go and dive in celebration right in front of Benitez. Anyway, unfortunately for him (given yesterday`s appointment), it worked very well, and the very image of his face brings up nothing but bitter memories and severe dislike.
2) How on earth will the players be feeling? We all know how important it is at Chelsea (still) for the manager to have the senior players on side. Unfortunately for Benitez, all the senior players (JT, Lamps, Ash, Big Pete) were all heavily involved in the above period, and surely, egged on by one Mr Mourinho, would have built up a passionate hatred for Rafa. Those kind of feelings don`t disappear overnight. Especially if Benitez is replacing a popular manager, which we are led to believe RDM was.
3)Torres. Fernando, Fernando. This is just beginning to get silly. How much more can be done to try and get the best out of him? Is Roman just going to start paying off defenders to let him score (even then he would still actually have to put the ball in the back of the net). I find it very worrying that Abramovich is still so obsessed by Torres. Anyone that has watched him play over the past two seasons can see his legs have gone. He will never be the Fernando Torres of Liverpool. Injuries have taken their toll, and he just doesn`t have that yard of pace anymore. So appointing a manager seemingly largely to get the best out of one player just seems ludicrous. Furthermore, how is that going to make the other players feel? I suspect Oscar, Mata and Hazard may be slightly bemused as to why a team is being built around a striker who doesn`t score, assist, and has frankly shown an appalling attitude for too long now.
4)Finally, even though I could go on for hours, the most worrying thing for me is what has happened this week shows one of two things: Either Abramovich is being very badly advised by people around him who are both thick and know little about what it means to be a Chelsea fan. Or, Abramovich himself simply doesn`t give a stuff what the fans think anymore. Now, I will never say Abramovich should go, and would always thank him for what he has done for the club, but if this latter point is the case, I am really, really worried about my football club. It increasingly looks like it is becoming the mere plaything of a rich and ruthless oligarch. And it doesn`t really matter what the fans think. I don`t think I have ever heard a bunch of fans singing songs about a manager they are rumoured to be approaching until the well worded invitation to Rafa to stay away from the Bridge. Yet we still appoint him. Unbelievable
I am, this morning, a very depressed Chelsea fan, making the decision to not go and watch the club I absolutely love and have put so much into for 25 years. The club is becoming an un-recognisable shadow of the football club it used to be, and I, and many others don`t like it. Do the board care? Worryingly, I don`t think so……