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The FA Cup Fourth Round

Chelsea too soon for Clarke

West Brom head coach Steve Clarke has played down his chances of replacing Rafael Benitez as Chelsea manager in the summer.

Last Updated: 01/03/13 at 07:05 Post Comment

Steve Clarke: West Brom head coach plays down chances of replacing Rafa Benitez

Steve Clarke: West Brom head coach plays down chances of replacing Rafa Benitez

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Clarke, who spent nearly 20 years at Stamford Bridge as player and coach, admits he is unlikely to be in the running for the Chelsea job, although he remains ambitious.

He said: "I think it's too early to start connecting me with Chelsea. There are a lot of managers that are out there who have a better case than me.

"Wherever I am on the bookmakers list is a good indication and I'm sure I'm not in the list at 50/1 even!

"I'm not even a year into the job here. Up to now it has been a great season and I haven't looked anywhere beyond that.

But Clarke, whose team play Chelsea on Saturday, added: "If you are asking me if I want to manage a top team in the future? Of course I do.

"If you don't have that ambition to further and better yourself than you shouldn't be in the game. But it's not for now.

"The dream for me is we go to Chelsea and play as well as we can and get another three points."

Benitez has criticising Chelsea fans for protesting against him and questioning why the club named him as interim manager.

His outburst sparked speculation that his position was in immediate danger and a lot of his Premier League counterparts have sympathy for the position Benitez finds himself in.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew feels the 'interim' title did not help anybody concerned.

"The title probably didn't do him any favours," Pardew said. "It probably didn't help Chelsea, and perhaps even upstairs, they might regret that title, if you want to call it that.

"He's a great manager; they are a great club. They will sort it out."

Reading boss Brian McDermott understands Benitez's frustration at being given the 'interim' title, having experienced a similar situation himself.

He said: "That is the title that the job was given. When I got the job here in the first place I was caretaker manager. It was called caretaker then until I got the job as the manager. That is kind of how it is.

"The title was 'interim manager' and I understand that that title doesn't look to be a permanent title, I would suggest, so I can see from Rafa's point of view that wouldn't be the title he would have wanted."

Regarding the constant jeering Benitez has had to endure during his Stamford Bridge reign, McDermott added: "It isn't pleasant but that is how it is. That is football, and fans want to see teams that are winning."

Fulham manager Martin Jol also had sympathy for Benitez, saying :"I feel for any manager who is not well-liked and he wasn't well-liked from the start so I feel for him.

"He is a professional so he will probably do his job until the end of the season."

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers had some empathy with Benitez's situation but was thankful he had such a supportive backing at Anfield.

"He has obviously been understanding of the situation he has gone into - and only he and the football club know," the Reds boss said.

"From a manager's perspective, you never like to see it. Steve Kean last season went through a horrendous time (at Blackburn) but showed great dignity.

"You have empathy as a manager, but you know the game you are in.

"It's certainly better if they (the fans) are with you - you want the supporters to support the team."

Swansea chief Michael Laudrup highlighted the relationship between Benitez and Chelsea fans as the sole reason for the jeering.

"I think it has absolutely nothing to do with the results," he said.

"When people are booing at the stadium even when the team are winning, it is clearly not about results.

"It is something to do with emotions and feelings, which are an important part of football, but the relationship there (between Benitez and the fans) has nothing to do with results."

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