Antonio Conte will always hold a special place in my heart… he gave Chelsea our swagger back


Chelsea finally sacked Antonio Conte on Thursday after a protracted and undignified saga since winning the FA Cup in May. Stamford Bridge season ticket holder Callum West gives his view to Sportsmail…

Thursday confirmed an open secret for the last six months – Antonio Conte won’t be back for a third season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Despite following up league success in his first season with victory in the FA Cup in his second, he has become the third title winning manager in a row to be sacked either during or after the season that followed their victory. 

The third to be undermined by the board’s disjointed approach, and the latest victim of a seemingly constant cycle of success and self sabotage from the club.

Antonio Conte will always hold a special place in the hearts of Chelsea supporters

Antonio Conte will always hold a special place in the hearts of Chelsea supporters

Antonio Conte will always hold a special place in the hearts of Chelsea supporters

 The Italian won the FA Cup in his last-ever game as Chelsea manager back in May

 The Italian won the FA Cup in his last-ever game as Chelsea manager back in May

 The Italian won the FA Cup in his last-ever game as Chelsea manager back in May

When Ancelotti won the double, Michael Ballack, Joe Cole, Deco and Juliano Belletti were all released and essentially replaced with Josh McEachran, Gael Kakuta and Fabio Borini. 

When Mourinho asked for John Stones to build on his 2015 title success he got Papy Djilibodji instead.

For many of us it seems that Conte has become another victim of his own success. That success was almost immediate and left a lasting impact, both on Chelsea and English football.

It is easy to forget that he came into a club that was at its lowest point in two decades and, despite having had relatively limited resources for a Chelsea manager, quickly transformed it.

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Indeed, his adopting of three at the back changed the entire league’s tactical approach, and he even temporarily transformed Victor Moses into Cafu.

His success was almost immediate and left a lasting impact on Chelsea and English football

His success was almost immediate and left a lasting impact on Chelsea and English football

His success was almost immediate and left a lasting impact on Chelsea and English football

His management was pragmatic, he identified and played to the strength of his players, and forged togetherness and team spirit that seemed to have disappeared under Mourinho and Hiddink.

At a time when it was most needed – Conte restored Chelsea’s soul and our pride, he gave us our swagger back.

He ingratiated himself to the Chelsea faithful quickly. The day he arrived Conte was pictured outside Stamford Bridge, his piercing blue eyes looking up at the statue of club legend Peter Osgood. 

In his first match as manager he dived into the crowd to celebrate a last minute winner against rivals West Ham.

In his first match  he dived into the crowd to celebrate the winner against rivals West Ham

In his first match  he dived into the crowd to celebrate the winner against rivals West Ham

In his first match he dived into the crowd to celebrate the winner against rivals West Ham

The 48-year-old won the Premier League title in his first year in charge at Stamford Bridge

The 48-year-old won the Premier League title in his first year in charge at Stamford Bridge

The 48-year-old won the Premier League title in his first year in charge at Stamford Bridge

After the insipidness of Hiddink’s second spell in charge this passion was as refreshing as it was contagious. 

The club were re-energised, the team were galvanised and it felt as though the fans, players, management and club were, once again, all pulling in the same direction.

Predictably with Chelsea, little over a year later he’s gone and any semblance of unity has disappeared.

Not to say that Conte was infallible. At times in his second season his melancholy seemed as infectious as his passion had felt in his first.

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His handling of the departure of Diego Costa, so often the difference in the 13-game winning run that cemented the success of his first season, not only stripped the team of one of its best players and biggest characters, but also turned elements of the dressing room against their boss. 

His handling of Diego Costa's departure turned elements of the dressing room against him

His handling of Diego Costa's departure turned elements of the dressing room against him

His handling of Diego Costa’s departure turned elements of the dressing room against him

The team spirit he had forged in his first year, ebbed away in his second.

And while I agree with him about the board’s recruitment, the repeated failure to build on our success and the impossible task of balancing the club’s conflicting demands for both immediate success and an emphasis on the promotion of promising youngsters into the squad, with the Costa situation he was as guilty of self sabotage as the club have been.

And the less said about losing our 28-year undefeated home record against Tottenham the better.

But ultimately it should be that title and the 13 wins in a row that are his legacy. 

The less said about losing our 28-year undefeated home record against Tottenham the better

The less said about losing our 28-year undefeated home record against Tottenham the better

The less said about losing our 28-year undefeated home record against Tottenham the better

Throughout that season we played some of the most devastating counter attacking football the Premier League has witnessed and the 3-1 victory away to Manchester City is one of the great Chelsea performances.

The celebrations in the away end at Goodison Park, where we brushed aside not only Everton but also any lingering doubts that we’d be champions, and at the Hawthorns when we eventually clinched the title will live long in the memory of the Chelsea fans who were there.

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These are the moments that make the thousands of pounds we spend each season, the miles we travel, every boring 0-0 draw we endure all worth it.

More than anyone else that season, Conte was responsible for them and for that reason he’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you, and good luck Antonio.

That title and the 13 wins in a row are his Chelsea legacy - thank you, and good luck Antonio

That title and the 13 wins in a row are his Chelsea legacy - thank you, and good luck Antonio

That title and the 13 wins in a row are his Chelsea legacy – thank you, and good luck Antonio





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