Chelsea Fans Have Come Under A Lot Of Criticism: Is It Fair?

For the last few days Chelsea fans have been under fire from repetitive articles all saying more or less the same thing: Chelsea fans ...

For the last few days Chelsea fans have been under fire from repetitive articles all saying more or less the same thing: Chelsea fans booing Rafa are wrong, misdirected, cowardly and unjustified in their protests.

Well, various arguments have been made to assert all of these things, some I agree with, and some I don’t. I appreciate that almost everything I have read has been written with professional integrity, but virtually nothing I have read has acknowledge the fans’ perspective.

A column in The Times by Matt Dickinson yesterday claimed that Chelsea fans booing Rafa were bullies and cowards, these being the author’s own words. There are little grounds for either claim. The boos were as predictable as the sacking of Di Matteo was, yet Benitez chose to take the job. He’s a grown man, he knew it was coming, and you know what, I doubt he cares a great deal because he is a professional. That much he has already demonstrated in the short time he has been here. Obviously he would prefer to be cheered but that was never going to happen, and because he’s a professional he took the role already knowing this and perhaps with the target of getting us on his side. He will not have lost any sleep over our “bullying”.

As for Chelsea fans being cowardly, what is wrong with them voicing their disapproval in the only way they can in a completely non-violent manner?  The word coward is a strange term to use; we’re not exactly trying to hide from anything as the word implies. We have simply exercised our right to be critical as all fans do. We quite clearly want to make it clear how we feel. How exactly are we cowardly?

Some journalists have claimed that Benitez has nothing to apologise for, and so our fans booing him is unjustified. I would agree with the first part of that. Benitez has said some things in the past that were uncalled for, but they were said at a time when he was loyal to another club which he was simply protecting. He doesn’t need to apologise to us.

That said, I nonetheless hope he appreciates that he needs to earn our respect. He may not need to say sorry, but that doesn’t mean the fans will forget his insults. If the Stamford Bridge dissent taught him and the club anything, I hope it was that. He will certainly earn my respect if he is as committed to Chelsea as he was to Liverpool. So to say that the boos were unjustified is mistaken, and I’ll explain another reason why shortly. I might add that we don’t blame Benitez for what has happened, as some people seem to think we do.

Lets not get carried away with our protests however. The fans have had their say, and now we should  let Bentiez do his job. After all, who are we to act so high and mighty? Lets move on now, and once you feel Benitez deserves it, we can begin to show our appreciation. 

Some have said our protests are misdirected. If I hear one more person regurgitate the line “the club is nothing more than Roman’s toy” I will have to go in search of a very tall building. If they think none of our frustration was aimed at Roman, then sports writers are very naïve. While I’m sure some individuals were driven by nothing but an irrational hate of Benitez, the grand majority of the boos and chants of “Only One Di Matteo” were as much directed at Roman as they were at Benitez. Do people really think we don’t understand that it is Roman who sacked Di Matteo and continued the erratic pattern of hire-fire-hire-fire? We both love and appreciate him, but we further justify our boos because we want to make sure he knows we’re not on board with Di Matteo's sacking.

He understands this, and that’s enough for me. How though can people completely removed from the situation tell us how we ‘should’ feel, it’s not enough and that we ‘should’ want him out of the club altogether? Ian Macintosh argued our trophy hall over his reign does not justify the many managers that have gone through the club. He seems to think that league titles, a champions league and a lot of FA cups represent nothing but a missed opportunity to create an empire. Well I’ll have to disagree, because that is nothing but a normative claim about something you cannot possibly know. Furthermore, with the exception of perhaps the Bundesliga, there is no league more competitive than the premiership and no team is about to start building an empire here. Not even City.

Nor do we only justify these sackings just because we have won a lot of trophies. I justify some of them because I shudder to think where we would be if Grant, Scolari of Villas Baos were still here. Furthermore I justify other sackings, such as Ranieri, Grant, Scolari and Villas Boas, with the fact that their successors have gone on to accomplish a lot at Chelsea. For me, the only sacking that was unjustifiable before now was Ancelotti. And now Di Matteo of course, and we’ve voiced our anger at this, as I have already mentioned. Nobody tried to justify either of these sackings.

I’m not about to call for Roman’s head because I trust him. People who like using that bloody toy line will claim he knows nothing, when actually he knows a great deal about football. Guillem Balague rightly pointed out that if Roman wanted to run the club on his own, he wouldn’t have hired Morinho. He is looking for someone who is capable of taking on this responsibility, and the rumours of Pep having total control should he come to Chelsea show this. Indecently I think Benitez would deserve such control were he here for the long term.

I would be wrong to say Roman doesn’t make any mistakes though. We’ve got a big fat one currently playing up front for us now. What he does right though out-weighs what he does wrong. Even now, after the unjustified sacking of Di Matteo, he has gone and hired the best possible alternative. Whether or not we like Benitez, we should recognize he is a great manager, dare I say it, better than Di Matteo.

This is why, regardless of what Benitez has said in the past, we should put our differences aside, back him and the team. We've had our say, the boos will not be justified for much longer. Now remove your prejudice and let Benitez show what he is capable of and why he bravely took a job at a club where he universally disliked.

There is nothing cowardly, misguided, unjustified or harsh about Chelsea fans’ reaction at the weekend. The only thing wrong with our protests were the crude A4 signs, printed out on Microsoft Word the morning before, with “Rafa Out” colourfully written on them (with an exclamation mark just so that everybody knows how angry they are!). It’s a little embarrassing when you consider Manchester United can colour-coordinate an entire stadium in protest of their owners (even if they did have a little longer to orchestrate it). 

(follow me on twitter:@cody_bound)

Carefree & KTBFFH!

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