Clarke not fazed by Chelsea criticism of Benitez

West Brom Head Coach Steve Clarke has not been put off by the barracking interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has received, and says he would welcome the chance to manage the Blues himself one day, according to the Daily Mirror.

Clarke served as a player, coach and assistant manager at Stamford Bridge and while he accepted that as someone so closely identified with Chelsea, he was likely to be mentioned as a future manager – but he was not targeting that job in particular.

However, Clarke did admit he wants to manage a high-profile club in the future. He said: “I think it’s too early to start connecting me with Chelsea. There’s a lot of managers that have probably got a better case than me. But if you’re asking if I want to be manager of a top team in the future, of course.

If you don’t have that ambition to better yourself you shouldn’t be in the game. But it’s not for now. The connections are inevitable. I can’t do anything about that. Chelsea has been a big part of my life, I’ve spent more than 40% of it connected with them.

Clarke added that Benitez should have known to expect a frosty reception from fans with long memories when he replaced Roberto Di Matteo in November. Benitez has been the target of long-standing criticism from Chelsea fans, some of whom are unhappy with his past Liverpool connections and negative comments he made about the club when employed at Anfield.

This week saw Benitez hit back at the critical supporters and condemn the club’s decision to title him the interim manager. But Clarke said: “Has he had a fair crack of it? If you are manager of a club like Chelsea you know what comes with the territory. Has (his treatment) been unfair? It’s not for me to judge. I work for West Bromwich Albion. It’s a Chelsea matter.

The West Brom fixture has been something of a graveyard for past Chelsea managers, with both Andre Villas-Boas and Di Matteo sacked after negative results against the Baggies. Villas-Boas was fired almost exactly a year ago after losing 1-0 at the Hawthorns, while the last league game in charge for Di Matteo, a former West Brom manager, was a 2-1 defeat to Albion, also at the Hawthorns, in November 2012.

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