Benitez just the ticket for nine-year-old Chelsea fan conned by online tout
00:00 GMT, 31 December 2012
The cacophony of boos that heralded the appearance of Rafa Benitez at Goodison Park would have you believe he is football’s equivalent of a pantomime villain.
Since replacing Roberto Di Matteo as manager, the Spaniard has struggled to win over a stubborn Chelsea support, unwilling to accept him or forgive and forget his days as their nemesis as Liverpool’s manager.
Yet in the eyes of Chelsea-mad nine-year-old Harry Rennell, Benitez is very much his hero this morning.
Conned: Tony Rennell (left) thought he had bought a ticket for the Boxing Day match between Norwich City and Chelsea for his nine-year-old son, Harry, only to discover he had been tricked out of 300 by a touting website
Surprise: Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez secured the Rennell's tickets for the Capital One Cup semi-final with Swansea on January 9 after reading about the story
In a story that pulled heartstrings across the country, Harry’s father Tony wrote a cautionary tale in the Daily Mail last Friday of how he had been let down after ordering two tickets from Online Ticket Express for Chelsea’s game at Norwich City as a Christmas present.
Despite paying more than 300 for the tickets, they failed to arrive in the post, leaving Tony and his son despondent.
On reading the story, Benitez, himself the doting father of two girls, contacted Sportsmail and offered Harry and his father two tickets for Chelsea’s Capital One League Cup semi-final, first-leg tie against Swansea on January 9.
Harry’s delighted father Tony said: ‘Thank you, Rafa. There has been a very sympathetic response.
‘One Chelsea fan has invited us to go as his guest to the QPR game on Wednesday, and we’ll be there to cheer them on.
Stocking filler: Mr Rennell had wanted to surprise his Chelsea-mad son for Christmas and paid website Online Ticket Express over 300 for them
‘What is great is that nine year-old Harry now knows that, although some people may let us down in life, there are always others who will step forward to do the right thing.’
Doing the right thing may soften some Chelsea supporters’ view of their interim manager, but it’s not the first example of kind-hearted Benitez showing the grander side of football.
Hearing a pensioner had been mugged on the Wirral, then Liverpool manager Benitez made sure the elderly fan and his family were guests at Anfield.
On his departure from Liverpool, the 52-year-old gave a ‘substantial five-figure sum’ to the parents of Rhys Jones, the young Everton fan who was shot dead as he returned from football training in August 2007.
Disappointed: Harry was let down but will now get to watch his heroes in action next week
At the time, Benitez said: ‘I am doing this on behalf of the people that cannot. I know that every person on Merseyside would have loved to give the fund a donation, but they are in hard times and can’t find the extra cash.’
Benitez donated 96,000 to the Hillsborough Memorial Fund and gave a further 2,800 to aid running costs through his wife Montse’s foundation.
Whatever he does from now on, Benitez may always be the villain to some, but at least his gesture is just the ticket for Harry Rennell.