Rafa holds up well on first day in the madhouse with Gourlay and Buck nowhere to be seenReferee Clattenburg's race case blows up in club's faceMikel hit with FA misconduct charge for his actions on that day
Fans' anger growing over Benitez's appointment
23:43 GMT, 22 November 2012
At 5.55pm on Thursday evening, Rafael Benitez breezed into the Bobby Tambling suite at Stamford Bridge and was ready for anything. He had to be. This, after all, is Chelsea FC.
The European champions’ new manager was fully-briefed. On Chelsea’s chaotic regime, the hostile reception from supporters and the Mark Clattenburg affair.
He batted away a question about the FA’s verdict that there was no substance to Chelsea’s allegation: ‘This is my first day and I have just arrived,’ he said. ‘I went straight to training and have only thought about the team and what I want to do. I want to concentrate on football issues if I can.’
I'm back! Rafael Benitez held his first press conference as Chelsea manager at Stamford Bridge on Thursday
Remember me Benitez takes his first Chelsea training session on Thursday afternoon
Under the microscope: Chelsea fans have been given their first glimpse of the new Blues boss
VIDEO: Watch Rafa Benitez's first press conference as Chelsea boss
Team bonding will have to wait
Chelsea stars were forced to cancel a team-bonding session after Roberto Di Matteo was fired.
Morale among players was so low following the 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich they planned a night out on Wednesday at Under the Bridge, a venue beneath Stamford Bridge.
It was seen as a chance for the squad to repair relations with the backroom staff following the stormy scenes at The Hawthorns when players, management and coaching staff traded insults after they fell four points behind Manchester City.
Chelsea assistant manager Steve Holland had arrived at The Hawthorns with a black eye and a cut cheek and it was still prominent when he was in the dug-out at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday night.
It was a nice idea, but there are too
many other issues surrounding this club at the moment and not enough
people in power to answer them.
Chairman Bruce Buck and chief
executive Ron Gourlay are happy to pipe up on radio stations when it
suits them, but when it comes to questions that are fully-loaded they
are nowhere to be seen. Shame on them.
When the FA released a statement
clearing Mark Clattenburg of racially abusing their own player, John
Mikel Obi, they didn’t have the courage to face up to questions.
When Benitez was asked to explain why
he is prepared to keep the seat warm for Pep Guardiola, the Spanish
coach was left to front it out himself.
When the inevitable questions about
the savage decision to fire Roberto Di Matteo just six months after
leading them to Champions League glory began, it was left to Benitez.
No action: Mark Clattenburg has no case to answer while John Mikel Obi (right) has been charged by the FA
Revival bid: Benitez gets to work on making Torres score goals again for the Blues
New man: Benitez arrives at their Cobham HQ before assessing his new workplace
‘It’s like being at a Champions League
press conference,’ he joked, holding the Chelsea shirt up for cameramen
and immediately settling into his stride.
It was impressive stuff, but after
finally meeting Roman Abramovich for the first time over dinner on
Thursday night, he will soon come to terms with the conditions every
Chelsea coach has to work under.
Benitez added: ‘This is a massive
club, one that allows me to fight for trophies. If you see my CV, I have
all the trophies you can win at club level. I won the league twice, in
Spain. In Spain, Guardiola cannot win the Premier League — you cannot
win the PL if you are a coach in Spain.
‘The Premier League, obviously, would
be a massive trophy because I know how difficult it is to win it. If you
get an opportunity like this, you have to take it. I don’t care about
short-term. I have to win every game.
New man in the hotseat: Rafa Benitez arrives at training at Chelsea's Cobham training ground and told the fans to get behind him
Reunited: Fernando Torres arrives at training at Cobham ahead of his reunion with Benitez
Leader: Captain John Terry turns up for training
‘We have five trophies to fight for. I
will try from day one. In football and life you never know. If we win
some trophies in seven months, everybody will be delighted.’
This is a six-month trial, a chance to
prove to the rest of the world that he remains one of the best coaches
in football. That experience, along with his ability to get the best out
of Fernando Torres at Anfield, is the reason he has been appointed as
Chelsea’s interim manager on a six-month contract.
Benitez said: ‘I spoke with Torres
like with the others players today, and his attitude was really good. It
seems everybody was saying he wasn’t doing well and I was saying the
same when I was watching games.
‘But his attitude was really good and
with this attitude, all the players will do well. It will be easier with
Fernando than the others. He is a top-class player and with his
attitude, he will do it. I know how good he can be, as I know how good
David Luiz or Ramires can be. He’s one of the important players in this
team, and I’ll try and improve him like I will the other players.’
That is one of the reasons he has been
appointed, to improve the form of a man who was once recognised as one
of the most feared forwards in the game. Torres hasn’t scored in the
Barclays Premier League since Oct 6, when he found the net during a
routine victory over promoted Norwich.
The former Liverpool striker, who was signed by Benitez in 2007, will start against Manchester City in his first game on Sunday.
This is the beginning of Chelsea’s
recovery. It has to be that way after falling four points behind City in
the Premier League and in danger of becoming the first Champions League
winners to be dumped out in the group stages.
Making his point: A Chelsea fan stands outside the training ground with an anti-Benitez sign
No thanks: Chelsea fan protested when Rafa Benitez was linked in March
Benitez has made a start by appointing
former Chelsea star Boudewijn Zenden as first-team coach and has also
brought in two of his old Liverpool backroom staff, fitness coach Paco
De Miguel and analyst Xavi Valero.
Winning trophies is all important and
they can make a start in the FIFA World Club Cup next month. It will
certainly help his relationship with the supporters, particularly after
the hostile reaction to his appointment.
At Liverpool, during those infamous
Champions League clashes with Jose Mourinho, he claimed Chelsea’s
supporters were no match for the Merseysiders.
Benitez said: ‘I don’t remember the
comments, but if I said it then you have to analyse the context. We were
playing against Chelsea, a top side, in the semi-final of the Champions
League and I was defending my team.
Former Blue: Boudewijn Zenden will be one of Benitez's coaches
End of the road: Roberto Di Matteo was sacked following Chelsea's defeat to Juventus
‘If I’m a fan, I’d like to see my
manager fighting for my team, my club, and doing almost everything. So I
don’t think it’s a lack of respect for the Chelsea fans.
‘I’m sure the fans here would like to
see me doing the same now that I am here, defending their club. We have
something in common: I want to win every single game.’
Benitez has worked under difficult
conditions before, caught in the crossfire when Liverpool’s previous
owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks fell out. He said: ‘When I left
Liverpool I had two bosses who were not talking to each other. This will
After accepting a six-month contract, he couldn’t be more wrong.
You've changed your tune, senor! What Benitez said back then…
After the game, Sheila, who was sitting right in line in the main stand, said to me that the ball had crossed the line. She is a very honest person and that was good enough for me. It was a goal.
(On taking his secretary’s word that Luis Garcia’s so-called ‘ghost goal’ had crossed the line in the Champions League semi-final between the sides)
To me, Arsenal played much better football two or three years ago. They won matches and were exciting to watch. Barcelona and Milan too. They create excitement so how can you say Chelsea are the best in the world
(After Chelsea’s first Premier League title win)
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 one club in England, and that’s Liverpool.
If Chelsea are naive and pure then I’m Little Red Riding Hood.
We do not need to give away flags for our fans to wave — our supporters are always there with their hearts and that is all we need. It’s the passion of the fans that helps to win matches — not flags. (The quote has been immortalised in a plaque at Liverpool’s training ground, below)
I’m sure Chelsea do not like playing Liverpool. When they are talking and talking and talking before the game it means they are worried. Maybe they’re afraid
We were good friends until Liverpool started winning, then he started changing his mind. (on then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho)
In the past I was playing against Chelsea, a top side, in the semi-finals of the Champions League and if I am a fan I like to see my manager fight for my team, trying to win every game and doing almost everything, so I don’t see a lack of respect for Chelsea fans, it was more a manager defending his team against another top side. I am sure they will like to see me defending my club now in the way I defended Liverpool at this time.
And as for Torres
I know everybody will be talking about Fernando Torres and today I was talking with him like I was talking with the other players and his attitude was good. Everybody has been talking about he was not doing well and I was the same because I was watching games and his attitude was really poor, and today it was the same as all the others.