It looked as though it was going to be another embarrassing afternoon for Rafa Benitez’s men when United went two nil up in no time against Chelsea a few weeks ago. United weren’t even playing well but managed to score a couple of goals without even trying. In the second half, United’s performance worsened, with them suddenly unable to pass to a red shirt, and Chelsea were back in at 2-2. With moments to go David de Gea pulled off a fantastic save to deny Juan Mata (he has a great habit of doing that) and we were relieved to get a replay.
Ahead of this afternoon’s game Rory Jennings has taken some time out to discuss Chelsea’s current situation.
Scott the Red: So what’s the craic with these stickers then?
Rory Jennings: Ha. They were a slightly tongue in cheek way of getting our point across. The club enforced a stringent policy on protest and anything deemed “unsuitable” was banned from the ground. Anything that questioned the board, the owner, used foul language or had an abusive content were immediately confiscated. Which is why you were left with RAFA BENITEZ-WE’RE JUST NOT THAT INTERIM. Lol etc. However, stickers like that fit in a pocket and the ‘Never Forgive. Never Forget’ slogan captures the mood of the faithful pretty well.
STR: Whilst I can anticipate the answer, how are you finding life under Rafa Benitez?
RJ: Awful. And a draw against United and a convincing win against West Ham is hardly going to override 8 years of antipathy. It has fractured the support and the shocking results (Reading, QPR, Southampton, Corinthians, Swansea etc.) have led to one of the most poisonous atmospheres I have ever known at The Bridge. Searching for a positive? It has galvanised the fans and reinvigorated my faith in our support. We have stuck to a principle (which is the opposite of the famous ‘plastic’ tag) and actually driven him out. Chelsea’s plastic, passionless fans actually sent Benitez round the bend after a cup tie at Middlesbrough.
STR: Fair play to you for that. We enjoy Benitez cracking up as much as anyone! Where does the decision to appoint Benitez rank in Abramovich’s worst at the club?
RJ: It’s up there but I would suggest it started slightly earlier. I think Fernando Torres is the worst thing to have ever happened to Chelsea Football Club. Abramovich probably motivated by the right reasons and tried to preserve his £50 million investment. The way he was advised to do it was to throw good money after bad and get in a manager with a proven track record in the Torres department. What happened in the aftermath is a disgrace. Di Matteo is a hero. He was a pioneer in leading us towards our first trophy for 25 years, he scored the fastest goal at Wembley, he scored the last goal at Wembley, he broke his leg and had to retire from football in a challenge for Chelsea. Then he stepped into the shambles left behind by AvB and led us to our most successful season ever. To then remove him from the clubs history is a disgrace. To sack him when only 2 points behind United is a disgrace. And to paint over his image with the CL trophy is outrageous. Abramovich has to right this in the summer. If he doesn’t his name could well be on my next set of stickers!
STR: So there is the potential to turn on Roman? We’ve heard the chants of “we want our Chelsea back” from your fans. What would you regard as your Chelsea? How would you respond to people who say having a manager you hate is just the downside to having Abramovich as owner, and is balanced out by the silverware he’s bought you?
RJ: ‘Our Chelsea’ is a generic term that refers to the club being ours and us feeling at one with it. It isn’t harking back to trophyless days or pining for Bates to put an electric fence around the pitch. The fans are the heartbeat of any club and when that heartbeat is ignored it’s hurtful. Nobody wanted Benitez, even if he was a good manager we don’t want him. Listen to us, we know. Villa fans knew about McLeish. Blackburn knew about Keane. You knew about Glazer. Nobody can understand what is right for a club like the fans do. They need to use this as a lesson, we count. So with that in mind stick your Battersea power station where the sun doesn’t shine Roman. We are Chelsea and we belong at Stamford Bridge.
STR: So who do you realistically want Roman to appoint as your next manager?
CR: Jose Mourinho. The man is a hero and delivered the impossible at the Reebok stadium nearly a decade ago. He is the right man at the right time. He has unfinished business with us in the European Cup and would work wonders with our 3 midfield magicians. He knows what it means to be Chelsea. He knows the city, the history and the culture. If that doesn’t work out then I think we have a problem. I don’t think Zola is ready and the other European candidates I am not qualified to talk about. Personally maybe Martinez but that’s not the general consensus, that’s just me. What is the general consensus is that that Judas prick Poyet should stay in Brighton though. (And swim out to sea and see how far he can go)
STR: Mourinho? I said realistically. Didn’t you hear his desperation for the United job after the Real Madrid game? And for the record, Poyet isn’t too popular with our lot either. Anyway, who have been your best performing players this season?
RJ: Edin Hazard has been electric of late but for me over the course of the whole season it’s Mata and Lampard. I just don’t know where we would be without their contribution. Both have single handedly won games for us. I think our right back Azpilicueta deserves a mention here as well. He has stepped into a troublesome position for us and has been magnificent.
STR: Some United fans say the £12m we got for Mikel’s autograph was one of the best bits of business Fergie ever did (the total sum we paid for Vidic and Evra a couple of months earlier). What do you think of him?
RJ: People who watch Chelsea on MOTD will think that. He isn’t a headline grabber. He doesn’t score nor does he assist. But any Chelsea fan who goes and doesn’t rate him doesn’t understand football. He is a great player. One of the most important cogs in our team in fact. If he plays well, Chelsea win. There was a time when people used to think Makelele wasn’t up to it, now he has a position named after him. I don’t think he is in that class but he isn’t far off it. Also you would know more than me but I would say that he is exactly the type of player that you needed? You have tried Djemba Djemba, Liam Miller, Alan Smith, Paul Scholes etc all in that position when Jon Obi was winning league titles. He also steps up for the big occasion. MOM in Munich is an insight into the player.
STR: Not quite mate. We won the league every year for Mikel’s first three seasons at Chelsea, as well the European Cup in 2008. Considering we’ve won the title four times since he signed for you and he’s won it once, I’m not losing any sleep over it… anyway, given the choice, who would you prefer to win the league, United or City?
RJ: United. All day long. I’m used to that. It winds Liverpool up and I have a respect for United as a club. As a travelling support they are hard to fault-loud fans, good mob, good numbers. Looked a bit daft celebrating poor refs with the Clattenberg banner, that was very QPR of you but generally it’s a support that is hard to fault.
STR: Probably didn’t look as daft as Chelsea did when accusing the same poor ref of being a racist though… what did you make of the game at Old Trafford?
RJ: A game of two halves. Benitez realised the error of his ways and got Mikel and Hazard on and that changed the game. We should have won it though. I still make you favourites but I do think we genuinely have a chance now. Prior to the game at old Trafford I would have laughed off any suggestions of us going through.
STR: Who do you fancy for the replay?
RJ: I think its too tight to call. Bang on 50/50. You are better than us as the league position proves but we played so against you in the second half and against West Ham that I now think we can do it. We are at home but QPR have won there. Chelsea edge it.