Bridge Banter - Chelsea boss Benitez appears to have weathered the storm
Rafa Benitez has weathered the storm and, to the relief of the Stamford Bridge board, seems set to see out his final 10 weeks and focus on gaining a Champions League place for his successor.
His rant at Chelsea fans has been officially reclassified as a plea for them to get behind the players and, while some will still boo and wave banners, many realise it is hardly helping the Blues’ battle for fourth against Spurs and Arsenal.
Manchester United fans will boo Benitez on Sunday in a tough FA Cup tie at Old Trafford, because of his Liverpool links, so it will be interesting to see if some Chelsea fans actually stick up for Mr Interim.
The Blues have an allocation of 5,854 tickets for the game so, unlike the usual semi-silent fixtures in Manchester, there should be a fair old din this time.
Where did Benitez go wrong?
Where did he lose the chance to build a rapport, no matter how fragile, with fans in SW6?
The answer is – on his very first day.
He was unveiled in the Tambling Suite in the west stand at the Bridge on November 22 last year, and dutifully held up a blue shirt for the snappers.
Asked about the fans’ reaction, he said: “I am sure they will be happy with a manager with a winning mentality.”
What he could have done, but failed to do, was pay a more fulsome tribute to the much-loved Roberto Di Matteo, woo supporters with a passionate speech about his new love for Chelsea, apologise for jibes made in the heat of the moment when he was at Anfield and arrange to meet a representative group of supporters to make his peace.
Maybe he was poorly advised. Maybe he genuinely thought it would all blow over.
But he compounded the problem by wearing a red tie for his second game, the home match against Fulham. On such details reputations rest.