Antonio Conte not sleeping to give Tottenham ‘120 per cent’ amid quit threats

Antonio Conte not sleeping to give Tottenham ‘120 per cent’ amid quit threats

Antonio Conte has said he is not sleeping, as he works around the clock to reverse Tottenham’s slump ahead of tonight’s derby against Crystal Palace.

Conte also pleaded with fans for unity, after they jeered his tactical decisions and called for chairman Daniel Levy’s head during Sunday’s defeat by Aston Villa — but reiterated he could walk away from the club if not “100 per cent convinced” by their project.

Spurs dropped out of the top four following the dismal loss against Villa and have won just twice in their past seven matches, conceding first in 10 consecutive games.

In Sunday’s second half, the home support aimed chants of “get out of our club” at Levy, while one of Conte’s substitutions was booed and another drew ironic cheers. The head coach said he understood supporters’ frustrations, but urged them to have patience with the process of building “a foundation” for future success.

Antonio Conte insists he is working around the clock. (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
Antonio Conte insists he is working around the clock. (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

Asked his view of the chants against Levy, Conte said: “Honestly, I didn’t hear this. But it’s important to stay together. In my life, my family taught me that the truth is always the best solution, even if this is a bad truth. I understand very well that fans want to win, to lift trophies, to be competitive. But to take this step, we need now to create a base, to have patience.

“I can’t tell you something different or I’ll have to tell you good lies — and I don’t like to tell good lies. We’re working very hard for the best of the club. We’re working together. We’re in a position where everybody is giving 100 per cent — the players, the staff, the medical department, the club.

Everybody. But we have to try to build. It’s important to have patience. Then winning a trophy can happen.

“We’ve started this process and we have to be compact and stay together, and to have patience. I understand that fans many times don’t have patience, but we have to stay together and continue to work in the best possible way.

“What I can promise is great work, to be focused for Tottenham. I don’t sleep for Tottenham. This has to be very clear. I don’t sleep. Because when I go into a situation, I go 120 per cent, and I’m not sleeping for Tottenham to try to improve the situation. But if you ask me to tell you [the media] lies, or to send a message or to tell lies to our fans, I’m not the right person.”

Despite his plea for unity, Conte, who is under contract until the end of the season with a club option to extend by a further 12 months, reiterated his well-worn threats to walk away if he loses faith in Spurs’s rebuild.

“Here, I understood my task is different [to my previous clubs],” he said. “My task here is to build a solid foundation, to create a base and then to try to improve. This is my challenge here. If you ask me is [your aim] to win the Premier League or Champions League, this is not the task here in this moment.

“Now, if I want to stay here, then I have to accept this. Otherwise, if I don’t want to accept this, then I have to go. If I am satisfied to continue to do this work and to one day see the result, I will continue to stay. If I’m not convinced 100 per cent, then I can leave my work here.”

After tonight’s match at Selhurst Park, Spurs host Portsmouth in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, but Conte added that he does not consider winning a domestic cup among the game’s top prizes.

“In my mind, the best targets are the Premier League and the Champions League, not the Carabao Cup or FA Cup — with the greatest respect for these trophies,” he added. “We’re trying to create a base to become competitive for important targets and be strong.

“Now, we are not ready, because we started from such a low point. But we’re working. The club tried to sign good players — we signed [Cristian] Romero, [Dejan] Kulusevski, [Rodrigo] Bentancur, Richarlison. The club is trying to do something to accelerate this process.”

Kulusevski will have a late fitness test on a muscle injury, but Conte will be without Bentancur (adductor) and Yves Bissouma (suspended), so Oliver Skipp is expected to start, while Richarlison (hamstring) is also sidelined.