INK LEVELS LOW. DO YOU WANT TO CONTINUE?
*whirrrrrrr, worrying crunching noise, paper reeled into the machine, moment of anxiety*
*printing begins, phew*
They’re not the sounds usually associated with vocal protest, but when Rafa Benitez was surprisingly appointed interim Chelsea manager almost exactly a year ago, the inkjet printers of the London area were fired up into action. When Manchester City came to the Bridge for his first game in charge, the crappy A4 sheets of discontent where present for all to see.
Rafa was as unloved and unwanted as the words ‘is he really worth that much?’ just as Chelsea pay over the odds for their latest starlet. The abuse and crappy homemade signs continued, only fuelled by seemingly substandard results. Jose Mourinho was the one they wanted and it couldn’t have been clearer if a 40,000 strong crowd somehow collectively poured themselves into leather pants and sang about their devotion alongside a John Travolta pretending he’s mad for the women.Bagging a Europa League and another season of Champions League football did little other than
The fans ended up getting what they wished for. The Special One has returned and everything is suddenly magically ok. Except it’s not. Despite having a good squad at his disposal, the weaknesses that have dogged Chelsea in recent seasons are still present.
The early evidence is far from convincing. In fact, over the course of his first 11 leagues games at the helm in his second stint, his record is the same as the much maligned and even more abused, Benitez. Their records are virtually identical, but how they are treated couldn’t be more different. The fans wanted Rafa’s head on a plate – possibly more than metaphorically in some cases – for his performance while the Second Coming of Mourinho is treated with suitable awe-struck reverence.
The thing is, winning a couple of leagues and ruffling the feathers of some of the games biggest names tends to earn you a decent store of goodwill. Rafa’s exploits and comments while at Liverpool left him with a negative balance in the goodwill account, while it will take another couple of seasons’ worth of patchy performances before the #JoseOut hashtag gains real momentum.
It will take time for Jose to figure out the psychological buttons he needs to press on each individual player to get the response he wants. He can still turn Chelsea’s fortunes around and prove that the hero worship is justified.
What wasn’t justified was how the fans treated Rafa during his time at the club. He did a job he probably wasn’t overly keen on, stabilised the club and bagged some silverware to boot.
Fans have every right to protest at something they don’t like, but the reaction to Rafa was clearly excessive, especially when viewed through the stats of the first 11 games of both managers. No-one really came out of it well. Except maybe the print cartridge re-fillers of the world. Protesting through the medium of inkjet printer is an expensive business.