Tuesday 18 September 2018

‘When they chant my name, I’m very proud’ – Conte reflects on fans’ support

The Blues head coach feels proud when the supporters sing his name.

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte salutes the crowd
Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte salutes the crowd

By Matt McGeehan, Press Association Sport

Antonio Conte has reflected on the affection he receives from the Chelsea support.

There was a regular chorus of Conte’s name during Sunday’s 3-0 FA Cup fourth round win over Newcastle.

The Italian’s future as head coach has been subject of speculation for much of this season and he has done little to dampen the rumours of late.

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Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte kisses the Premier League trophy

And the 48-year-old former Italy and Juventus boss, who won the Premier League in his first season in charge, thanked the crowd for their backing.

“From the first day, my first game against West Ham, I felt this fantastic atmosphere around me,” Conte told Chelsea TV.

“When they chant my name, I’m very proud. They push me to give in every moment 130 per cent for Chelsea. My commitment will be always totally for this club.”

Conte is rumoured to be at odds with the Chelsea hierarchy over transfers.

But the Blues boss was happy to do as instructed by fielding two 17-year-olds against Newcastle. Ethan Ampadu is becoming something of a regular, but Callum Hudson-Odoi made his debut.

“The club asked me to work with the young players, to improve them and also if there is the opportunity, to give them a chance,” Conte added.

“Ampadu is a reality. He’s not a young player. I think he’s becoming an important player for us, because he can play midfield, as a central defender on the right on the left.

“He’s only 17 years old. I think he is fantastic news for the club.”

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Chelsea's Ethan Ampadu

Another important player is Marcos Alonso. After Kenedy’s loan move to Newcastle – a deal which suggests a left-sided player will arrive before Wednesday’s closure of the transfer window, with Roma’s Emerson Palmieri linked – Alonso was required to play against the Magpies.

The left wing-back scored a fine free-kick to make it 3-0 after laying on an assist for Michy Batshuayi’s first of two goals.

Alonso told Chelsea TV: “There is no-one else. I had to play. Always happy to play, to be involved as much as I can.”

Spaniard Alonso now has seven goals this season, with Conte instructing him to get into the box, so long as he also defends.

Alonso added: “The gaffer always wants bodies in the box. If I can get there and then get back to defend, I try to be in a position to score.”

Conte revealed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois should be available to play Bournemouth on Wednesday, following the ankle knock which has seen him miss the last three games.

Playmaker Willian (hamstring) and striker Alvaro Morata (back) are not likely to be in contention, while Cesc Fabregas was an unused substitute against Newcastle following a recent injury.

Newcastle can now focus their attention on Premier League survival after exiting the FA Cup.

The Magpies play Burnley on Wednesday, seeking to climb a congested lower half of the table.

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Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez gestures on the touchline

Boss Rafael Benitez told NUFC TV: “To stay in the Premier League is massive for the club. The next 14 games will be so important.

“Every game for us now is an opportunity to get three points.”

Press Association

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