BATES GIVES RANIERI FULL BACKING

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CHELSEA chairman Ken Bates has backed under-fire coach Claudio Ranieri to get things right at Stamford Bridge after a less than auspicious start to his tenure at the club.

The former Valencia and Atletico Madrid boss has struggled to turn things around since taking over from fellow Italian Gianluca Vialli, who was sacked in September despite leading the club to unprecedented success during his time in charge.

Ranieri, who took over on 18th September, has led the side to only five wins in his short spell in charge whilst suffering seven defeats, all away from home, including exits from the Uefa Cup and Worthington Cup, but Bates has handed him the dreaded vote of confidence.

Bates also hit back at suggestions that the manager's language problems are the principal reason for the team's indifferent form and he is confident he will get the club back on track.

"Let's forget this c**p about the manager not speaking English," said Bates. "The manager of Fulham, Jean Tigana, doesn't speak English - or doesn't want to speak English - but he doesn't get anything like as much stick as Ranieri.

"I am quietly confidently we can turn things around with a nice run in the second half of the season.

"The manager is gradually changing the shape of the team from all old players to a mixture of young and old.

"Against Middlesbrough on Saturday, we played five youngsters - Jon Harley, John Terry, Jody Morris, Sam Dalla Bona, and Mario Melchiot.

"We are playing more intelligently, although things are not quite clicking yet," added Bates.