Managers row in behind Di Matteo
Soccer: Former Chelsea number two Steve Clarke defended owner Roman Abramovich’s hire-and-fire policy, although admitted he was “surprised and disappointed” to see Roberto Di Matteo sacked and replaced by Rafael Benitez yesterday.
West Brom boss Clarke was a team-mate of Di Matteo’s at Stamford Bridge before spending four years as assistant coach under Mourinho and Avram Grant. He believes Di Matteo’s place is guaranteed in Chelsea’s history after leading the Blues to Champions League glory, but Clarke also points to the overall number of trophies won during the Abramovich era.
He said: “I am surprised and disappointed for Robbie who is a good friend and you don’t like to see your good friends lose their jobs. It is the way the owner runs the club. I don’t think anyone should be over-surprised at it. They look at results, the owner makes decisions and they act on what they feel is the right thing to do for Chelsea.
“I’ve always said the owners of any club can run their business the way they want to run it. That’s how Mr Abramovich chooses to run Chelsea and it’s been successful. It is not for me to criticise or to say it is the right or the wrong way.”
But Clarke added: “Roberto has got his place in history at Chelsea, the first coach to win the Champions League. It is a massive achievement and he can be really proud of that.”
Albion’s 2-1 win over Chelsea last weekend increased the pressure on Di Matteo before he was sacked after the Champions League setback against Juventus in Turin. But Clarke said: “I don’t think we had a hand in it. There were a number of factors that resulted in Roberto losing his job.”
Norwich manager Chris Hughton said he was surprised to hear of Di Matteo’s dismissal.
Hughton said: “When you have a manager who has the CV Roberto has, in the short period of time he has been there, you expect him to still be in the job. He has almost had to develop a new side, particularly offensively. They have bought some wonderful players. We were at the wrong end of that at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
“We saw the quality they have got going forward. It is a newish team and sometimes that takes time to settle in. They have by far had more good days than bad days so far this season. My thoughts go with Roberto who has proved he is a wonderful manager and it is not a bad CV that he has.”
On new interim boss Benitez, Hughton said: “There is no doubt about the credentials of the manager coming in. He is a top-class manager who did a brilliant job at Liverpool.”
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez believes Di Matteo should be proud of the success he brought.