I loved Roberto Di Matteo; I hated you. Fact.
A lot of Chelsea fans may say that is a bit strong, but I have supported Chelsea for pretty much my whole life (a mere 22 years so far) and I have never supported any other team. I have never hated a team as much as I used to hate Liverpool – everything from their history-harping fans, to their I-can-assault-people-in-bars-and-dive-on-a-weekly-basis-and-still-be-loved-by-all-captain/golden boy Steven Gerrard, to their extensively overrated pretend-footballer/part-time caveman Jamie Carragher, to you, Rafael Benitez. Especially you.
I remember the plastic fans comment. I remember the ghost-goal that knocked us out of the Champions League in a semi final match*. I also remember you slating Didier Drogba, one of our greatest ever players, before a Champions League match only for Drogs to go on and score the winner in that match and then sprint over to your dugout to celebrate in front of you. Of course, I celebrated with him – the image of your face as Drogba celebrated that goal will live with me forever.
*Granted, that wasn't exactly your fault, but it made me hate all things Liverpool a bit more and you were their manager at the time
When we sacked Robbie, I couldn't even find the energy to be angry. Just so, so disappointed in my gutless club for treating such a legend so poorly.
And then we hired you. And that made me angry.
I've seen a lot of strange things while following this club, but never had I hated my club until that moment. Hiring you was like kicking the fans while we were down, in my eyes. It was as if the lack of faith shown in our hero Roberto Di Matteo by the board wasn't deemed humiliating enough; they had to take it one step further, and that was one step too far for me.
For the first time ever, I didn't care whether we won or lost. I didn't care who played well, who played poorly, or who was slating Chelsea for our 'revolving door policy' (that supposedly isn't sustainable, despite a decade full of trophies to back that policy up). For the first time ever, I didn't really care about football.
Slowly, I began to care again – but it was for the wrong reasons. I wanted you to mess up. All I wanted and all I cared about was you getting the sack and seeing you and the board humiliated like we the fans had been.
Then, we heroically came from behind against Man United in the FA Cup to draw 2-2. After the game, I watched all of the players and staff approach the fans and both groups applauded each other. In the background though, waiting near the half way line, I saw you standing there. Alone and unsure of how to act. Not wanting to approach the Chelsea fans for fear of upsetting them after an important and uplifting win. That's when things started to change for me.
I felt a pang of sympathy for you, which I simply didn't think was possible.
Slowly, as the weeks have passed, I've begun to accept that you will be here until the end of the season, and then you will be gone. With just a few games remaining, our Champions League spot is still not 100% assured and we have our most important fixture of the season coming up against Tottenham.
If you can win against Tottenham and secure a third place finish, I will find myself in a position that I'd never thought possible.
While I will still not like you, I will respect that you have come into a difficult situation and given it your best shot. I will have some respect for you and, after the final game of the season, I will hold my hands up and say 'fair play, the man kept us in the top four and he deserves a bit of credit for that'.
In fact, what I would love to see is for you to earn us our Champions League spot, and then at the end of your final match, the fans to give you a simple round of applause as a thank-you gesture before you leave.
We didn't like you and I'm pretty sure that you didn't like us. However, once this is all over, I hope both parties have learnt to have a little bit of respect for each other.
You'll never be a Chelsea legend, but here's your chance to make it off of our 'Most Hated' list. Please take it and give this season some form of a happy ending.
Best of luck,