By Matt Scott
Former Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley has slammed the club's fans for their "sycophantic" support of Roberto Di Matteo and criticism of Rafael Benitez.
The Blues' fans have reacted angrily to the former Liverpool manager's appointment and booed the team off the pitch in the Spaniard's first two games in charge, 0-0 draws with Manchester City and Fulham.
Also, in both matches, the Stamford Bridge support have applauded and sung songs dedicated to Di Matteo in the 16th minute, in honour of the Italian's squad number while a player at Chelsea.
The tribute is similar to those undertaken by Aston Villa in the 19th minute of games in support of Stilian Petrov, who is battling Leukaemia, and Burley believes the copy-cat actions do not sit well.
"Personally, I think it was over the top," Burley told Goal.com. "I knew there was going to be concerning voices, but even people at the game were taken aback by how universal and vociferous the disapproval was.
"I was expecting a very cool welcome but I didn't expect on 16 minutes [fans] to start clapping. I just thought that was a bit sycophantic and over the top.
"I know Aston Villa do it for Stan Petrov but the guy's got a life-threatening disease, he's really got a fight on his hands and they're showing appreciation."
The former Scotland international admitted that he felt bad for Benitez, but understood that the reaction towards him was likely brought on by past criticisms of the Stamford Bridge club.
"I don't feel sorry for Premier League managers," Burley added. "But I did feel a bit for Benitez because, although he's made comments in the past that would seem a bit foolish, at the end of the day, he's a football manager and he's been put in there so I did feel for him.
"I don't think it's going to get any easier for him, unfortunately."
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Craig Burley was speaking ahead of ESPN's live and exclusive coverage of Alfreton Town v Leyton Orient in the FA Cup Second Round at 2.30pm on Sunday. Visit ESPN.co.uk for full details.