By Russel Stoddart
Former Chelsea midfielder Pat Nevin believes that Rafa Benitez's criticism of the club's fans was a gamble that could yet pay off.
The Blues boss has been an unpopular appointment with Chelsea fans. Beating Steaua Bucharest over two legs in the Europa League last 16 and Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday is unlikely persuade them that he is the right man for the job.
However, Nevin reveals that he has received hundreds of emails from fans following Benitez's comments after the FA Cup fifth round win at Middlesbrough, with many expressing sympathy for the under-fire Spaniard.
"Rafa knew anything he said on the subject would be controversial, but what he did say was considered and certainly wasn't a rant," Nevin told Goal.com.
"I do some work for Chelsea TV and have received hundreds of emails from fans since Rafa made his comments. Far from everyone putting the boot in, about half of the emails have been sympathetic.
"Chelsea fans are fed up with washing their dirty linen in public and want to end the feeding frenzy that gives the club a bad name.
"I've got some issues with the way Rafa rounded on the fans. If it was me, I'd have simply asked the question: 'You can have negativity or positivity. What is more useful to the team?'
"However, I agree with him that the attack on his management wasn't doing the team any favours. The problem with Rafa is that even if he were to win the FA Cup and Europa League he would still be public enemy No.1 with many of the fans."
Nevin believes that, due to the air of negativity surrounding the club, many of the positives that are coming out of the Blues' campaign are being lost.
He explained: "I am actually quite excited about Chelsea's future. I would happily go and watch them every week.
"Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are world class, David Luiz could develop into a phenomenal midfield talent and at the back I've been particularly impressed with Gary Cahill's improvement and they have finally had some competition for Petr Cech in goal.
"Even the uncertainty over a new manager and lack of continuity hasn't been a major problem. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have had more than their fair share of managers but they carry on winning things.
"It is only in England that it seems to cause problems, but Chelsea has still managed to win leagues, Champions leagues and FA Cups despite having seven or eight managers in the last few years.
"Call me old fashioned, but I still like to see trophies in the cabinet being a priority over finishing third of fourth in the league and qualifying for the Champions League.
"It will be tough in Romania, but I think Chelsea has got a better chance of winning the Europa League than FA Cup.
"Manchester United have two more days to prepare for Sunday's game, while Chelsea have to travel back from Romania, just about the furthest you can go in Europe.
"Chelsea also have fewer options to freshen their squad, so the cards will be stacked against them."