The interim Blues boss has masterminded victories in the club's last couple of games, including an 8-0 demolition of Aston Villa, but is still public enemy No.1 to many supporters
By Dan Levene | Blues Chronicle
Chelsea may be back to winning ways under Rafael Benitez, but there is no sign of a sizeable proportion of supporters shifting their entrenched position against the 'interim' manager.
After a soaring 8-0 crushing of Aston Villa, and a far more closely contested Boxing Day win at Norwich, some may be expecting fans to be coming round to accepting the the Spanish coach at Stamford Bridge.
That completely misunderstands the nature of opposition among the most vocal match-going Chelsea fans to the appointment of a man many have maintained a deep-seated dislike of for almost a decade.
They are adamant that, whatever Benitez achieves in his time at Chelsea, he will never have their support.
The reasons behind that opposition differ according to the individual. Many oppose him for his previous stance in relation to Chelsea while Liverpool boss.
Others have less of a problem with Benitez than they do with the way the club dismissed predecessor Roberto Di Matteo and brought in a man they had repeatedly warned they did not want.
As time has gone on, a third stance has become evident: those radicalised against the club or its present choice of manager, due to the divisions created by the Benitez appointment itself.
Chelsea's support, never the amorphous single-voiced lumpen group seen at clubs such as Liverpool, has always been riven with factions: each adamant that they will support their club in the way they want.
Some are adamant that it is their right to voice opposition to the coach while backing the team: and, whatever people may think they have gleaned from broadcast coverage of matches, I can assure them that opposition to Benitez and support for Di Matteo has not dulled since the change at the top.
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There are even those, a small-but-significant minority, who claim to be boycotting matches because of their adherence to either one of these positions.
There is merit in all of those points. However, the one position most match-going supporters cannot abide, and I'm with them 100 per cent on this, is the insistence by some non-interested parties that they can tell people how they should go about supporting their club.
The argument against journalists, armchair supporters, pundits who seek to stick their oar in is simple: serve 30 years on the terrace like we have; pay your money to stand in the rain and watch the team lose; fly all over the world cheering-on the side; and then you have a right to stand up and be counted.
Until then: this is our club, and we will support it any way we please.
Club officials at the highest level have been made aware that the opposition to Benitez will remain strong in some quarters for as long as he remains in-post.
Somewhat typically, some of them are so far atop their ivory towers as to claim this as the work of a small number of agitators – when the evidence from the stands is that opposition is far more widespread.
They have also been made aware of ways in which open hostility might become more of an uneasy truce: get him to talk about Liverpool less; stop going on about how people will learn to love him; show deference to the club's history and legends; apologise, even.
Various aspects of that have been taken on-board to varying degrees – though still Benitez contrives to score an own goal most weeks.
But, even without those PR gaffes, the fact is that most Chelsea fans have already made their mind up long ago about Rafael Benitez: and I wouldn't be expecting many to be changing their minds any time soon.
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