LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Chelsea fans turned on Fernando Torres for the first time during the Capital One (League) Cup semi-final first leg defeat by Swansea City and the vultures are starting to circle above the misfiring Spain striker’s head.
Torres has had his share of trials and tribulations since joining the Londoners from Liverpool for a British record fee of 50 million pounds ($80.53 million) in January 2011.
He has failed to reproduce the form that netted him 81 goals in 142 games for Liverpool, including 33 in his first season, but the Stamford Bridge faithful never wavered in their support until now.
Chelsea’s new striker Demba Ba, signed from Newcastle United last week, hit two goals on his debut in a 5-1 FA Cup third-round win over Southampton on Saturday and the crowd repeatedly sang his name during Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat by Swansea.
“We want Demba Ba,” the fans chanted before interim manager Rafael Benitez finally relented and introduced the Senegal international in the 81st minute to replace the beleaguered Torres.
”Torres was poor,“ former Ireland and Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino told Sky Sports News on Thursday. ”As the game wore on he looked like a guy who had run out of confidence.
“He looks like he’s playing with a bit of fear in his game and you can’t have that.”
Torres has cut a forlorn figure for much of his time at Chelsea and has suffered long spells without a goal.
The fans were happy to back him because he continually showed a willingness to fight and scrap for the team despite his lack of goals.
This time last year Torres said he was desperate to repay the crowd for their unstinting support during the worst spell of his career.
”Since I joined Chelsea the fans have been amazing to me,“ he explained. ”It has been very important to have the fans behind me.
”I went through the hardest moments of my career. I went several games without being in the starting lineup and I’ve never been in that situation before.
“The only thing that gave me hope was the support of the people.”
Torres, first-choice striker for the European champions this season following the sale of Didier Drogba, has scored 14 goals in all competitions this term but has still to prove he is worthy of a regular place in the Chelsea team.
Former Chelsea and Netherlands striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink said recently that the Spaniard did not score vital goals.
Hasselbaink suggested many of the goals Torres had bagged this season had come when the game was already out of reach for Chelsea’s opponents and that he failed to get enough match-winning efforts in close-fought matches.
Cascarino, who won 88 caps for Ireland and played for Chelsea between 1992-94, said the writing could now be on the wall for Torres.
“If you are playing for a big club you have to deliver because if you don‘t, you’ll be going through the exit door,” added Cascarino.
”He is very close now. The fans singing Demba Ba’s name is going to hurt Torres but you are going to get that if you don’t play well and you miss chances.
“The fans won’t accept it if you are not performing.”
$1 = 0.6209 British pounds Editing by Ken Ferris