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By Mike Collett
LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Former Chelsea players showed little sympathy for interim boss Rafael Benitez who said on Wednesday he was leaving the club at the end of the season and criticised the club's board and fans.
Instead, they rallied round their old club with former defender Jason Cundy saying Benitez had orchestrated his own downfall at Stamford Bridge by failing to adopt an attractive brand of football which would have won over the fans.
Former midfielder Craig Burley said Benitez and the club should go their separate ways as soon as possible, while bookmakers William Hill were offering short odds that he would be out of Stamford Bridge before Chelsea play West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.
The bookmakers also installed former boss Jose Mourinho as favourite to return to Stamford Bridge as the club's next permanent manager following another week when the image of the European champions has taken a pounding.
Burley told Talksport radio on Thursday: "Maybe it would be in the best interests for the club and for Rafa's own sanity if they go their separate ways as soon as possible."
Cundy said: "Benitez has not helped himself because if Chelsea were winning and had been playing attractive football over the last few months, it would have quietened the fans. The trouble is they have not been playing well.
"He should never have been offered the job and while I have a little sympathy with him for what has gone on, you cannot come out and attack the owner and have a go at the fans. You cannot get away with that, you can't," he said on Talksport.
Benitez said on Wednesday he was surprised and upset to be called "interim manager" and blamed the fans for creating a bad atmosphere at the London club.
Cundy responded: "I cannot accept that Benitez was surprised to be called interim manager because at the end of the day, Avram Grant and Robby Di Matteo had that title and they both got Chelsea to a Champions League Final."
As well as dealing with the Benitez outburst after the club's 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win over second-tier Middlesbrough on Wednesday, Chelsea faced criticism for airbrushing former manager Di Matteo out of a mural at Chelsea's West Stand.
Di Matteo led Chelsea to Champions League success last season when they lifted the European Cup for the first time, but was sacked in November and replaced by Benitez.
"I said last summer that if Chelsea finish third and win a trophy, then that would have been a decent achievement," Cundy said.
"Di Matteo could not have done better than that, Benitez could not have done better than that, but the style of football is not as good now as it was at the start of the season."
Cundy, who described the situation at the club as "crazy", said captain John Terry could emerge as a shock contender for the manager's job. (Editing by Clare Fallon)