Rafa Benitez believes a vocal minority drove him out the Chelsea exit door.
And that’s why he will never take for granted the love shown to him by Newcastle United’s support.
The Spaniard is the last Blues boss to lift a European trophy – the Europa League in 2013. And heading back to Stamford Bridge today for the first time since his departure, you’d think a warm reception would be guaranteed. It is certain to be frosty.
The Magpies’ manager left under a cloud, amid ‘not wanted, never wanted’ and ‘the interim one’ banners.
Reflecting back on his time in London, Benitez has revealed his relationships with those at the top of the club were positive, but some fans never took to him on the terraces.
“A group of fans weren’t good to me. And you can always here those who were more vocal, it doesn’t mean they are the majority,” he said.
“I can tell you, a lot of fans were happy with me. At the end, I had a lot of messages telling me I did really well.
“All the feedback that I had from the professionals and the board was very positive.
“They couldn’t manage with what happened with some fans.
“Most fans realised the best way was to stay calm and let us do our job.
“We achieved what they were expecting. In the end, they had to decide and decided they had to change.
“Initially, he brought me to save the team and to achieve what we did achieve. Afterwards, they thought they had to change, and they did.”
Benitez continued: “It is important for anyone to be loved. As a professional, if you win, you are always loved. If you lose, it can be the opposite.
“You just have to carry on doing what you think is best.
“The majority of clubs I was manager at, it was fine, when you were winning.”
Benitez admits he did not know he had not been back to the club, since his triumphs four years ago, in which he not only led Chelsea to European glory, but also a third-placed finish and two domestic cup semi-finals.
Either way he is hopeful of a positive reception from Blues fans.
But whatever the sentiment on arrival, he hopes to depart with three points to aid Newcastle’s Premier League survival charge.
“I didn’t know it was the first time because I was with other teams. Hopefully there will be a good atmosphere, it will be a great game and we can get three points,” he said.
“I think the fans will be fine. The normal fans who you can find on the streets were OK with me.
“It was really positive – I have a lot of friends there.
“My concern is the players always. You don’t compete against the manager, it depends on what we have or you have. If you have the same things then you can compete against the manager. If you don’t have the same then you have to do your best.
“Sometimes if you are a little bit lucky and you play well then you can win.”