Sunday 21 December 2014

Chelsea fans need to give Benitez time, says Stoke boss Pulis

Phil Medlicott

Published 10/01/2013 | 14:57

STOKE manager Tony Pulis feels Chelsea must give interim boss Rafael Benitez time to get things right at Stamford Bridge.

Benitez has had a mixed time of it so far since taking over from the sacked Roberto Di Matteo in November, with a remit to carry out the job until the end of the season.

Under the Spaniard, Chelsea have recorded several high-scoring victories but he was unable to prevent them from crashing out of the Champions League. They were beaten in the final of the Club World Cup and yesterday they suffered a 2-0 home defeat in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final against Swansea - a week after losing 1-0 at home to strugglers QPR in the Barclays Premier League.

The appointment of former Liverpool boss Benitez was met at the time by discontent among some Blues fans and, as has been the case at several games since then, he endured a torrent of abuse from a section of the crowd last night.

Pulis was at the Swansea match ahead of his 10th-placed side's league clash with fourth-placed Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, and the Welshman has emphasised how important it is for managers to be given a decent chance to prove themselves at a club.

Regarding the animosity towards Benitez, Pulis - who has spent 10 years as Stoke boss, aside from a brief stint at Plymouth in 2005-06 - said: "I had it here when I came back after the spell away.

"You have to grind it out and get through it. You have to get results and that is what Rafa will have to do.

"If he gets results and he gets lucky, then he has a fantastic football club to build.

"He has proved before at football clubs that he can manage at the highest level.

"Given the chance, who is to say he couldn't do it at Chelsea?

"But he needs the opportunity, and that does not mean weeks or months - you have got to give people time."

Meanwhile, Pulis has stressed he wants to see Michael Owen remain with Stoke for the remainder of the campaign.

Former England striker Owen's first-team playing time for the Potters since joining them in the summer has been restricted to four substitute appearances and then a start in last weekend's 0-0 FA Cup third-round draw at Crystal Palace, where he struggled to make an impact before being substituted in the 53rd minute.

Reports have linked the 33-year-old with a January transfer window switch to Perth Glory, whose coach Ian Ferguson has ruled out the prospect of a move but said the Australian outfit had been contacted by "an agent" to see if they were interested in Owen and that the matter was "discussed at a good level".

Asked about that this morning, Pulis said: "Is it true, is it not true? You just don't know.

"I read a story yesterday in the papers that (Manchester United striker) Danny Welbeck was available.

"Ask (United manager) Sir Alex Ferguson what he thinks about that. You have to deal with it.

"Michael has got a contract until the end of the season and as far as I'm concerned, he has not come in and said he wants to change it.

"We haven't pulled Michael in and said we want to change that. So Michael will be part of the football club hopefully until the end of the season."

There has also been talk of another Stoke frontman, Kenwyne Jones, being targeted by Swansea.

Questioned about that, Pulis - who reiterated that he is looking to bring players in during the current window - said: "There is Kenwyne, there has been interest from other clubs in other players.

"There is loads of stuff going on - it is the silly season. So we will let the silly season run and we will decide what is right for the football club and the players.

"We always take everything into consideration at this football club, and if it is right for the players and the football club, we will do business. If not, then we'll get on with things."

One confirmed departure from Stoke is midfielder Michael Tonge, who has joined Leeds on a permanent deal following a loan spell with the npower Championship side.

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