Rafael Benitez in upbeat form on Football Focus - Dan Walker

Football Focus

  • Where: BBC One
  • When: Saturday 9 February, 12:15-13:00 GMT

I shall never forget Des Lynam's advice about how to decide what the big stories of the week are: "Events, dear boy, events".

Lord Lynam was quoting Harold Macmillan's reported response when asked what prime ministers feared most.

No doubting the 'event' of the week came at the Riverside on Wednesday night when Rafael Benitez decided to have a pop at a small section of Chelsea fans and a swipe at those who'd named him 'interim' manager.

Benitez's insightful interview

Rafa Benitez in conversation with Dan Walker

My in-depth conversation with Rafael Benitez covered his 'rant', his job security, his relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and much more besides.

Everyone expected him to be gone by Thursday morning and, from my extremely selfish point of view, I was concerned that our interview - arranged for 15:00 GMT at the Renaissance Hotel at St Pancras - would not be going ahead.

The papers, pundits and punters were all predicting his rapid demise and then came the shock news from Cobham. "Benitez was taking training" and, according to the club, it was "business as usual". The irony of that last statement may not be lost on Chelsea fans.

The crew and I arrived at the hotel early and - after a few issues with light bulbs - we were all set up and ready for Rafa to arrive. I met him in reception at 14:55 GMT and you could see that all eyes were trained on him and that tongues were starting to wag.

He was smiling widely and shaking hands on our way to the suite. As we approached the staircase made famous by the Spice Girls' Wannabe video a hotel worker extended his hand. "I bet you wish you'd never left Anfield," he said. Benitez laughed and sprinted up the stairs.

"So you're still in a job then?" I asked as we put on our microphones.

"Why do you say that, Dan?" he replied. "I felt you would be former Chelsea manager today," was my response. "Not yet," came the quickfire riposte.

As we began the interview he talked at length about his decision to say what he said after the Middlesbrough game, his desire to be successful at Chelsea this season and his "excellent" relationship with the club's famously ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.

Would you wannabe Rafa?

Three of the Spice Girls

I met Benitez at the Renaissance Hotel at St Pancras, scene of the Spice Girls' famous Wannabe music video. Just a bit of trivia for you...

He painted a picture very different from the battered manager, fed up with fans, stumbling around a fractured dressing room, waiting for a phone call to add him to a long lost of managerial casualties.

His take on Abramovich was fascinating. He is in regular conversation with the Chelsea owner, whom he insisted does not pick the team. Benitez also said he was still enjoying the experience and that he doesn't feel his reputation has been harmed by his time at Stamford Bridge, arguing in fact that he has helped bring the best out of some of the younger players in the squad.

If you are in the UK, you can see the whole thing on Football Focus this Saturday at 12:15 GMT on BBC One. He goes on to talk about his relationship with the fans and the senior players at the club. He seemed certain he would be there until the end of the season, so, hopefully from his point of view, he'll be there for Saturday's game against West Brom.

I had to run for a train at the end but as I sprinted down the Wannabe steps the Liverpool fan who had greeted us on the way up shouted: "Must be nice to get the big interview this week?"

He's right, and so was Des Lynam and that Macmillan fella.