Conte rounds on ‘impatient’ Spurs supporters
Romero and Richarlison also feel manager’s anger
ANTONIO CONTE has blamed the impatience of Tottenham’s fans for his failure to end the club’s long wait for a trophy.
‘The problem for me is only one,’ said the Spurs boss, whose contract expires at the end of the season. ‘Every club where I coached, I won. Expectation has always been very, very high. My past penalises me. When I arrived everybody said, “Now we have Conte, he won in the past so now we are going to win”. ‘But we have to win together. I can teach you the path to win but you have to follow me and I need time and patience. The club can give me time, but patience is finished for the fans. ‘The fans for many, many years are waiting to win something.’ Tottenham were booed as they lost in the Champions League to AC Milan on Wednesday, after an FA Cup exit at Sheffield United. ‘I can put it all on myself but I don’t want to kill myself. I am not stupid,’ added Conte.
THE gallbladder is gone but the guts are in good nick, judging by Antonio Conte’s appetite to go down fighting. Tottenham’s impatient fans were his main target as he reflected on the unravelling of his team’s season in eight days, from the FA Cup defeat at Sheffield United to the Champions League exit at home against AC Milan on Wednesday.
The focus of his ire was the impatience of Spurs supporters, claiming they were damaging the team with the atmosphere they created and urging them to come together for the rest of the season, starting at home against Nottingham Forest today.
Conte avoided criticising the board, insisting his relationship with chairman Daniel Levy was good, and that he spoke daily with managing director Fabio Paratici, but did reveal that Arnaut Danjuma, a January arrival on loan from Villarreal, was not his signing.
He ordered Cristian Romero ‘to control himself much better’ after two red cards in six games and accused Richarlison — who gave an explosive post-Milan interview with TNT Sports — of being selfish.
‘The guy understood very well that he made a mistake speaking with “I, I and I”, not with us,’ said Conte, who went through every word with the Brazil striker. ‘It means you are thinking only about yourself and are selfish.’
As for Richarlison’s comments about a ‘ s*** season’, Conte agreed. ‘He’s right, his season is not good,’ he said. ‘He had lots of injuries. He scored zero goals with us, only two in the Champions League. He has time to recover. If he deserves to play, I’ll give him the opportunity. Otherwise we’ll play another player.
‘What happens on the pitch is important, tactics are important but the spirit and desire to fight and the fire in your eyes is much more important. We have improved in this aspect. I have good guys, but sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes you have to show the right desire, to sacrifice yourself to fight, to win the duels and be nasty. Sometimes I think we are a bit soft.’
Conte’s main target, however, were fans who booed his team off against Milan and jeered his call to replace winger Dejan Kulusevski with defender Davinson Sanchez after Romero’s red card. ‘You think in that moment we can play with four strikers?’ he asked, aghast. ‘Against Milan, the counter-attack and the space? I have a career behind me and the experience to make the right decision.’
Conte came as close as he could to admitting he will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.
It has been a gruelling campaign for him personally, one in which three of his close friends have died prematurely and he had surgery to remove his gallbladder. He called for everyone to come together and promised to ‘fight to the end’, but also said he was not prepared to shoulder the entire burden of stress.
‘ It’s not for me to say the atmosphere is good or not good,’ shrugged Conte. ‘The patience has finished here for the fans. The fans want to win a trophy, full stop. We feel this, I feel this, the players feel this.
‘For sure, this does not help. There are many young players playing and they need to improve and go step by step to grow. If you don’t have patience it’s not useful. To win is to create the right atmosphere, the right unity, the right spirit, to be solid, for everybody to have the same idea.
‘In this way, you are preparing to win, or you have to believe in a miracle. There is a big, big job to do here.
‘I don’t want to kill myself. I am really happy to work here and stay here. But at the same time, I have to take all the considerations, also for myself. If I have to put the stress and pressure only on myself, it is not right.’