Thursday 14 November 2019

We're all interim managers - Clarke

Steve Clarke has defended comments made by Rafael Benitez, pictured
Steve Clarke has defended comments made by Rafael Benitez, pictured

West Brom boss Steve Clarke "didn't see a lot wrong" with the comments made by Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez and expects the Spaniard to remain in his role for the rest of the season.

Benitez, speaking after the 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, hit out at his employers for giving him the 'interim' title, and at the Chelsea fans for the hostility shown to him. Former Blues player and coach Clarke agreed with Benitez's assessment that football managers are all in interim positions, with the possible exceptions of long-serving Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger at Manchester United and Arsenal.

But the Scot, whose side visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday, believes everyone who takes charge at Chelsea "knows what comes with the territory". Clarke said: "It is difficult for me to say whether it was a rant or not by Rafa because I didn't hear the interview. I read it and seeing a transcription is different to hearing someone say something."

He continued: "But I didn't see a lot wrong in what he said. The script, as it was written down, was okay. I think by and large we are all interim. Someone is going to come and take your position at some stage.

"Only Sir Alex (Ferguson) and maybe Arsene Wenger can say they are in it for the long haul, but eventually someone is going to take your job so we are all temporary managers.

"We go in as a head coach or a manager and we go in for whatever period of time it is to try to help the club to move forward. Rafael Benitez was put in as manager to take the club to the end of the season and I'm sure that will happen."

Clarke reckons Benitez would have known the situation he was confronting when he replaced the sacked Roberto Di Matteo in November. He said: "If you are manager at a club like Chelsea, you know what comes with the territory.

"You work with great players, you've always got a chance to compete in the major competitions. Everyone keeps telling me Chelsea are struggling, but they are doing okay. They are in the top four of the Premier League and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and the last 16 of the Europa League and reached the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup. They are doing okay.

"Is the criticism unfair? It is not for me to judge. I work for West Brom. Chelsea, and what they see as their problems, that's for Chelsea. It is not for me. I was lucky I had the chance to do that (gain respect) over 12 years as a player at Chelsea. It's different for me. I had great times as a player and coach there.

"I've got a fantastic relationship with Chelsea. I'm not going to say anything bad about the club. It's a club I hold close to my heart. It's a big part to my past."

PA Media

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