THE FINAL CONT-DOWN
With just three points required from their final three games to wrap up the title, Chelsea travel to the Hawthorns on Friday night in the hope of getting their job done at the earliest possible opportunity. West Brom are the team tasked with keeping Tottenham’s faint title hopes alive, a side who have taken two points from the past 18 available and one whose players have been building sandcastles, lying around on beach towels, sipping margaritas and generally gadding about in the foamy surf since securing Premier League safety back in mid-March. Never mind, Spurs … there’s always next season. When you’re playing all your home games at Wemb … oh.
|But football being football, every silver lining tends to come with a dark, grey cloud attached, and speculation abounds that Chelsea could become victims of their own manager’s spectacular maiden season in England. With his natty bespoke suits, natty bespoke hair and natty bespoke line of technical area gesticulation that is furious even by the standards of The Fiver’s laziest Italian stereotypes, Conte has been attracting admiring glances from his native Italy. Inter have subtly let it be known they’d quite like to employ him by sacking their own manager, whispering sweet nothings about massive salaries, linking themselves with various players Conte couldn’t attract to Chelsea and flying an airplane trailing a giant banner reading “Hey Antonio Conte, please, please, please, please come and manage us!” repeatedly over his house. While Chelsea may well match any offer they make for him, with his wife and daughter still living in Italy there is a genuine concern among Chelsea fans he might jump at the chance to return there.
“I have a contract for another two years with Chelsea but, for me and my players, the important thing is to be focused on the present,” Conte said, when asked about the speculation over his future. “This moment is very important. The future is not important for any single person: me or the players. It’s normal to have a lot of speculation around players and coaches, so it’s important not to lose the concentration and be focused as we try to reach this fantastic target.” Presuming Chelsea do reach this fantastic goal, Conte should be very proud of his fantastic achievement, one that will become even more fantastic if they double up with a win in the FA Cup final against Arsenal later this month. Of course the cherry on top for the rest of us will come when his celebrations are hijacked by a certain Manchester United manager, who almost certainly point out that Conte achieved his success with somebody else’s team.