Antonio Conte is the eighth permanent Chelsea boss of the Roman Abramovich era
Expect to put in some hard graft lads because at the end of this coming season, Antonio Conte believes that Chelsea might just have turned into a Workers Paradise.
The Italian was unveiled as Chelsea manager today, the man to lead them back to their glory days. And he promised work. Lots of it. Coupled with passion, teamwork and spirit. But mostly work.
Conte, 46, has already begun implementing it at Chelsea, just 48 hours after starting his duties at the club, with tough double training sessions this week under way.
The man known as the Godfather to his Italy players during Euro 2016 was Mr Quiet and Mr Serious as he was presented to the world today.
Jose Mourinho was the “Happy One” when he returned three years ago and was unveiled amid a welter of publicity. Carlo Ancelotti cracked jokes. Andre Vilas Boas was Mr Smooth, answering people by name when they asked questions.
Not Conte. Although he smiled, you know it is all about graft as he promised to “work, work, work”.
Conte walked into the room straight off the training pitch having changed into a blue suit, shirt and tie, his long black hair over his collar. His English was surprisingly confident and fluent.
But he refused to dub himself either a Special One or a Happy One, saying he would leave it for others to label him.
“The most important message is that I’m a worker,” he said. “I like to work. I know the only road for this club to get back into the Champions League, to get back to winning the title, is work. I know only this way: work, work, work.
“I’m very happy, though. I found the right attitude and right behaviour with the players. A great will to fight for this shirt. To fight to come back to compete for the best position. After these two days, I’m very glad to see these things.”
It was the one word that kept cropping up, every five minutes or so: work. What would happen if players did not knuckle down? “The players are ready to work and fight,” he said. “The players want a different tournament compared to last season.
“They know that last season was very, very bad. Not bad – very, very bad. Every single player knows this and wants to change the story. They want to remove the past.”
Conte insisted he was not afraid of the sack, even though he is the eighth permanent manager to take over the club since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003. Mourinho was the last, axed in December last year as Chelsea’s season spiralled into disaster.
As for the pressure, Conte said: “I was born with pressure. It is normal. At a great club like Chelsea you must fight to win.”
Conte created a tremendous spirit in his Italy side in France this summer as he took them to the quarter-finals. And his extrovert antics on the touchline, he vowed, would be staying. At one point celebrating a goal at the Euros, the former Juventus player and Italian international leapt on the dugout roof.
“That is what I am,” he said. “I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing but I have a great passion for football, for my team. I suffer during games. We work during the week very hard to reach our victory and when that doesn’t happen, I’m not happy.”
Conte confirmed that John Terry would be staying as Chelsea captain after being awarded a new contract at the end of last season. But as he refused to say how his Chelsea team will be playing in this coming campaign, the worker got lyrical: “When I was in Italy I liked to say that the manager is like a tailor. A tailor who must build a dress, the best dress for the team. I hope there’s a small flame flickering here that can hopefully grow into a blazing inferno.”
And with that he was off, back for the second training session of the day with his players. It is all about work, you see.