LONDON, England, March 6 – The Chelsea players may have seen the back of Andre Villas-Boas but his replacement as manager – albeit in a caretaker capacity – Roberto Di Matteo told them on Monday they owed it to the club fans and themselves to rescue their season.
The 41-year-old Swiss-born former Italian international – a former Chelsea player who scored for them in their 1997 FA Cup win – faces his first challenge in Tuesday’s FA Cup fifth round replay against second tier side Birmingham.
“We have to focus on the next game, which is against Birmingham,” he told the club’s TV channel.
“We have to try to win the next game, which is how we are going to be from now until the end of the season – we are going to focus on game by game.
“Our duty now is to look forward and to try to get the results that we need in the league (they are three ponts adrift of Arsenal who occupy the final Champions League place), the Champions League (they trail Napoli 3-1 with their Last 16 second leg match at home next week) and in the FA Cup to have a good season.”
However, Di Matteo – who enjoyed some success when he managed West Brom guiding them back to the Premier League only to be sacked last season when they hit a poor run of form – admitted that not all the measures introduced by Villas-Boas would be dispensed with.
“It has been a very difficult 24 hours for a lot of people at the football club,” said Di Matteo, who added Eddie Newton, a former Chelsea team-mate and his assistant at MK Dons and West Brom, to the backroom staff on Monday.
“Andre has brought some very good, positive ideas and changes to this football club and we will benefit from his changes.
“I enjoyed very much working with him and we will remain friends for the rest of our lives, but I will have to move on for this club and try my best with the players we have here.”
Di Matteo – who it is also reported is scarcely better liked by the older players than Villas-Boas was – is thought to be low on the list to become the eighth full-time manager of owner Roman Abramovich’s increasingly turbulent reign at the club.
Former Liverpool and Inter Milan handler Rafael Benitez has said he would love the chance to manage them highlighting his experience in winning the Champions League, which would strike a chord with Abramovich as that is the trophy he has never captured.
Other names mentioned include former manager Jose Mourinho – who went on to win the Champions League with Inter Milan after leaving Chelsea under acrimonious circumstances – and outside bets former England coach Fabio Capello and the favourite to replace him in the national hotseat present Spurs manager Harry Redknapp.
Another former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said on Monday he would love the job but he is damaged goods after several high profile failures since leaving the England job in 2006.