Antonio Conte attacked Tottenham’s players, the entire culture and direction of the football club on Saturday night.
In a stunning 10-minute tussle after Tottenham drew 3-3 with Southampton, Conte described his players as “selfish”, said they only played “for themselves”, and suggested there was a culture of underachievement at the club. He even pointed the finger at Daniel Levy, pointing to the lack of success under ENIC over the past 20 years.
Even before these comments, there was little prospect of Conte continuing as Tottenham manager beyond this season when his contract expires. Some of these comments will raise the question of whether he will ever reach the end of his contract.
Conte even questioned whether a change of coach would make any difference in changing what he called “the situation” at Tottenham.
Conte did not want to discuss the details of Tottenham’s damaging league draw with Saints, but went straight to his players and their behaviour.
“The problem is that we have shown once again that we are not a team, we are 11 players who go out onto the field,” Conte said. “I see selfish players, I see players who don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart out.”
Conte, who had never spoken like this before as a Tottenham coach, said he had been hiding the truth about the Spurs team and only now he can reveal the truth to the world.
“Before today, I prefer to hide this situation and try to talk and try to improve the spirit and the situation with words,” he said. “The most important thing if you want to become a strong team, if you want to become competitive, if you want to fight to win, is the desire, the fire you need in your eyes, in your heart, and in you you have to show this every moment.”
Referring to today’s result and the recent FA Cup exit to a much-changed Sheffield United team, Conte said the players’ spirit and motivation are worse than they were last season.
“If I had to compare last season to this season, we should be getting better, but now we’re worse in that aspect,” he said. “When you are not a team, anything can happen at any moment. Today is the last mode.
“Don’t forget we lost in the FA Cup against Sheffield United, who played with young players. Being a team is the most important thing. To understand that we are playing for the badge. We have to play to make our fans proud of us. We have to pay to show desire.”
Conte was furious not only at the players themselves but at the club’s culture which states that players are the only ones who never have to take any responsibility.
He said, “The club bears responsibility for the transfer market. Every coach who stayed here bears responsibility.” “And what about the players? The players? Where are the players? In my experience, if you want to be competitive, if you want to fight, you have to improve on that aspect.”
When told that his contract situation was not helping the players, Conte said that it was only in the hands of the players: “You find an argument, another excuse. You try to find an alibi for the players.”
Conte tried to argue that the team’s failure was linked to a deep-seated lack of ambition and a no-win culture.
When asked why this happened at Tottenham he said: “Because they are used to it here, they are used to it.” “They don’t play for something important. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under pressure. It’s easy that way. The story of Tottenham is this: 20 years, the owner is here, they’ve never won anything but why?”
Conte even seemed to sympathize with his predecessors as Tottenham manager, saying he had “seen the managers that Spurs were on the bench”, suggesting they weren’t the problem here. But he knows the problems run deeper than the man in the hole. He said that it is useless to strive for fourth place this year, and even if he leaves the job soon, it will not solve the problems.
“There are 10 games left and some people think we can fight. He fought for what with his spirit, that attitude, that commitment? What? For 7th, 8th, 10th? I’m not used to this situation. I’m really upset and everyone has to take their responsibility.”
“Not just the club, the manager and the staff. The players have to be involved in this situation because it’s time to change this situation if Tottenham want to change. If they want to continue in this way they can change the manager, a lot of managers, but the situation can’t change. Trust me.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
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