Tottenham fans back Antonio Conte and call for Daniel Levy to go as team get back on track

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

With their team ahead and their tails up, Tottenham supporters found their voice to hail Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, who both scored, back Antonio Conte and call for the departure of chairman Daniel Levy.

From the first minute of Spurs’s 4-0 win over Crystal Palace, there were distant chants of “Antonio” and “We want Levy out” from the away end, but it was not until Conte’s side finally scored first in a game that the twin messages rang around Selhurst Park.

These are febrile times at Spurs, with a restless fanbase on the cusp of mutiny and having decided that the blame for the club’s stuttering season and 15 trophy-less years lies with the ownership.

It was one thing to call for Levy to “get out of our club” amid the frustration of the 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa on Sunday, but venting at the chairman during one of Spurs’s best performances of the season suggests the pressure on the board could be a feature of the run-in, regardless of results.

Daniel Levy at Selhurst Park on Wednesday night. (REUTERS)
Daniel Levy at Selhurst Park on Wednesday night. (REUTERS)

In different circumstances, an under-pressure chairman might make a change in the dugout, particularly when his team has generally been so underwhelming, but by juxtaposing support for Conte (above, last night) with calls for Levy’s head, supporters have made plain where their loyalties lie.

Whether by accident or clever design, Conte has won over fans with his self-proclaimed honesty and near-constant threats to walk away from the job — repeated on the eve of last night’s game, when he promised to “leave my work here” if he is not “convinced 100 per cent” by the club’s project.

Conte has also warned repeatedly of a long rebuild at Spurs and there is little doubt their current position is down to a string of poor decisions at board level, from the failure to back Mauricio Pochettino and subsequently sack the Argentine for Jose Mourinho, to the appointment of Conte’s forgettable predecessor, Nuno Espirito Santo. The club’s involvement in the aborted European Super League is among the board’s other moves which have left a lingering bad taste.

In fairness to Levy, and as Conte himself has acknowledged, the club is backing the head coach in the transfer market, with two encouraging windows since the Italian’s appointment. The chairman has even shown a willingness to change established strategy by investing in older players with limited sell-on value, such as Ivan Perisic.

An impatient fanbase, however, appears to regard Conte’s public venting as a tacit challenge to his superiors and the heat on Levy is only likely to increase if Spurs do not do encouraging business this month.

Conte’s substitutions were also jeered against Villa, suggesting he is not entirely escaping the finger of blame, but supporters’ backing last night leaves the 53-year-old in a position of strength in talks over a new deal and his attempts to persuade the club to pursue top-level targets.

That said, when it comes to discussions with Levy and managing director Fabio Paratici over January deals, an impressive win may have strengthened the club’s hand, suggesting Conte’s squad may not be as thin as the head coach has consistently suggested.

Bryan Gil, the 21-year-old who Conte had claimed was not physical enough for English football, had a hand in three of the four goals, and Pape Matar Sarr, who did not play a single minute before the World Cup, caught the eye in a commanding cameo.

Oliver Skipp, 22, was rusty, but added a line-breaking dimension to the midfield, and Conte afterwards said he could no longer consider loaning out his youngsters.

Spurs were without Richarlison, Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski through injury but Conte is hopeful of having a full squad available against Arsenal in 10 days’ time.

Son’s goal, which completed the scoring after Matt Doherty had made it 3-0, was also a significant positive for the head coach, who had predicted that one moment could transform the South Korean’s abject season.

Similarly, an encouraging win could prove a turning point for Spurs, but the mood among supporters remains volatile going into the derby, with the chairman, rather than the head coach, bearing the brunt of frustrations.