Tottenham demand Antonio Conte explanation as players react to rant
Tottenham have demanded an explanation from Antonio Conte over his outburst after Saturday's match against Southampton, with the head coach understood to have told the club he was criticising players, not the board.
Spurs squandered a two-goal lead with 16 minutes to play to draw 3-3 at rock-bottom Saints, prompting Conte to slam the "spirit", "heart" and professionalism of his squad, and accuse the players of being "selfish".
He also appeared to suggest the players' attitudes were down to the culture of the club, and warned chairman Daniel Levy that nothing would change if he is sacked before the end of the season.
Levy and other board members were at St Mary's but the chairman left the ground before Conte's explosive press conference, learning of his comments on the way back to London.
It is not clear if Levy and the club have fully accepted Conte's explanation, but the chairman is unlikely to be in a rush to make a decision over the 53-year-old's future, with Spurs not playing again until April 3.
Conte is all but certain to leave Spurs when his contract expires at the end of the season, with little appetite on either side for a renewal, but the question is increasingly whether Levy will act before the end of the campaign.
Despite dropping two points, Spurs remain fourth, although they would drop to sixth if both Newcastle and Brighton win their games in hand.
Conte did not speak to the dressing room immediately after the game, which is not unusual, and has now returned to Italy for a few days, as is his custom during the international break. The players who have not been called up for their countries were given yesterday and today off.
The dressing room is understood to be split on Conte. There is a feeling his messages are no longer hitting home, which may have contributed to his outburst.
"The fire in your eyes. If you have this you don't go out in the FA Cup. Here we are used to [this] for a long time," Conte said, after James Ward-Prowse's stoppage-time penalty rescued a point for Saints.
"The club has the responsibility for the transfer market, the coach has the responsibility. But the players, where are the players? I see only 11 players that play for themselves. They don't play for something important. They don't want to play under pressure, under stress.
"It is easy in this way. Tottenham's story is this, 20 years there is the owner and they never won something, but why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stay here.
"I have seen the managers Tottenham had on the bench. You risk to disrupt the figure of the manager and to protect the other situation in every moment. Until now I try to hide the situation, but now, no, because I repeat I don't want to see what I have seen today.
"There are 10 games to go and some people think we can fight. Fight for what with his spirit, this attitude, this commitment? For seventh, eighth, 10th place? I am not used to this. I'm upset and everyone has to take responsibility.
"It is 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 cannot change. Believe me."