I won't be forced out, vows under-fire Benitez
LONDON (AFP): Under-fire Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez insists there is no chance he will be forced out before his contract expires at the end of this season.
Benitez has faced renewed calls for his dismissal after he launched an astonishing attack on the club’s fans and the Stamford Bridge hierarchy following his side’s 2-0 win at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday.
The 52-year-old, despised by many Chelsea fans following his spell with their rivals Liverpool, risked the wrath of Blues owner Roman Abramovich by asking why the club insisted on making him an ‘interim’ manager when he replaced the sacked Roberto di Matteo in November.
Benitez’s outburst sparked speculation that his position was in immediate danger, but the Spaniard took training as scheduled on Thursday as the European champions began preparations for Saturday’s league game with West Bromwich Albion.
And, asked during an interview with the BBC’s Football Focus programme, if he might be axed for his outburst, Benitez was adamant he retains a good enough relationship with Abramovich to be allowed to stay.
“No (I won’t be sacked). They know how we work and what we are trying to do. The players are really happy in what we are trying to do. Sometimes you win, sometimes you cannot,” Benitez said.
“The atmosphere in the club is really good. There are no issues in the team. In terms of what we do the players are fully behind the methods.”
Abramovich is regarded as one of the most demanding owners in world football and the Russian billionaire has notched up a series of high-profile sackings during nearly 10 years in charge at Stamford Bridge.
But Benitez talked positively of his rapport with Abramovich and insisted there had been no rows between the duo.
“My relationship with Roman Abramovich is very good,” he said. “When I meet with Roman Abramovich we talk about football, we talk like normal people and share our passion for football.
“My relationship with the staff and people at the club is really good.”
Benitez has faced opposition from a core of disillusioned Chelsea fans ever since he arrived at the club and during his post-Middlesbrough rant, he accused those supporters of having unrealistic expectations about the current squad.
But he was in more placatory mood during the BBC interview and tried to at least partially fix their fractured relationship by calling for a united front to help third placed Chelsea reach their goal of qualifying for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish.
“Everyone knows I will finish my contract at the end of the season. So this group of fans, who are singing and creating banners, they have to concentrate on supporting the team,” Benitez said.
“The rest of the fans, the majority of fans, know the way to help the team is by supporting the players. I’m thinking about my team and my club – I want to win every game. I tried to explain the way is to support the team in every single game.
“If we stick together and support the players we will be able to win games. Then at the end of the season I will leave and then they (the fans) can criticise.”
Benitez received support from West Brom manager Steve Clarke, whose side visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with the Scot claiming Benitez’s comments reflected the insecurity of most managers.
“I didn’t see a lot wrong in what he said. The script, as it was written down, was OK,” said the former Chelsea defender and assistant coach.
“I think by and large we are all interim. Someone is going to come and take your position at some stage.
“Only Sir Alex (Ferguson) and maybe Arsene Wenger can say they are in it for the long haul, but eventually someone is going to take your job so we are all temporary managers.”