By Liam Twomey
Roman Abramovich has once again emerged from the shadows to show his ruthless streak at Chelsea, with club favourite Roberto Di Matteo the latest victim.
Despite winning the Champions League six months ago, the Italian was given his marching orders on Wednesday, with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez later confirmed as his unpopular replacement.
Benitez is the ninth manager in as many years to work under Abramovich since the Russian arrived in west London in 2003, but one former Chelsea man does not believe the job is a poisoned chalice.
Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell spent a season at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant after arriving from Reading on a free transfer in the summer of 2007.
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“I was pretty shocked by the news, just like everyone else,” Sidwell told Goal.com.
“He did a good job last year and wasn’t doing too badly this year, although last night’s result wasn’t great in the Champions League, and that’s obviously the Holy Grail for Chelsea.
“Manager-wise, it’s a results business, and Chelsea want to be competing at the highest level and winning the biggest trophies year-in, year-out.
“It’s a hot seat to take, but the people who take the job have the credentials to bring silverware. If it doesn’t happen, their tenure is cut short, but I think on the whole there is support at Chelsea.”
Much has been made of the dictatorial approach Abramovich takes towards club ownership, with suggestions he often exerts an influence over team selection through intermediaries.
But while Sidwell admits the Russian’s shadow looms large at the club, he insists that, in his experience, the Blues management always took responsibility for footballing decisions.
“There were times when Abramovich would come down to the training ground to see the boys after some good results and after some bad ones, too,” he admitted.
“When he does come down, everyone sits up and takes notice, because he’s there and he’s got that aura around him.
“But what happens on the field is completely different to what goes on upstairs. Instructions are passed down, but it’s left up to the manager to make decisions on the footballing side.”
Managerial changes aside, Sidwell believes the biggest long-term challenge Chelsea face is to replace dressing room leaders such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
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“At the time I was there, the one certain thing was that it was a tight dressing room,” he continued.
“People like Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole brought everyone together through thick and thin.
“They did it last year in the Champions League with people writing them off, and I think they’ve done it this year as well.
“Those guys are coming towards the later stages of their careers now, and Chelsea do need to find a new crop.
“But I’m sure that with the size of the club they are now, with their scouting network around the world, they’re trying hard to find those players, along with every other club.
“It’s hard with the competition and money out there, but I’m sure they’ll be able to bring the right youngsters in and kick on.”
Steve Sidwell was a guest captain at the Black Ops 2 Live eSPORTS tournament, in partnership with SBTV. The tournament was part of a four day event to celebrate the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which is out now. To find out more about the game head to http://www.callofduty.com/blackops2
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