Counting on Conte

With Antonio Conte's new contract signed before the team departed for Beijing, we asked a Chelsea fan to sum up the Italian's impact at Stamford Bridge...

 

The sight of Antonio Conte launching himself on top of the dugout in celebration of Italy’s second goal against Spain during last summer’s Euros brought a smile to my face. One thing was for certain, you couldn’t question the passion and enthusiasm of the new incoming Chelsea manager.

Such a character was exactly what the Chelsea dressing room needed after the disappointment of our stale 2015/16 season. We needed new ideas, reinstated confidence and a fresh start. We needed our spark back. As Conte returned back down to pitch level, I was hoping Chelsea had found the right man to take us back up towards the top.

Last August, Stamford Bridge welcomed Conte with the Italian green, white and red held aloft by the Matthew Harding stand before our first game of the season versus West Ham. As Diego Costa drilled the winner past Adrian into the bottom left-hand corner in the 89th minute, Conte joined the fans in frantic animated celebrations, something which soon became a regular occurrence over the Italian’s first season with us.

The players became evermore accustomed to Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 formation, and their confidence began to return. Our new manager had rejuvenated our drive and brought back the Chelsea we love to watch. When we won, Conte would praise his players. When we lost, there was no finger pointing or excuses.

Every ball, every strike, every save, every goal, Conte lives through them with us, and we love him for it. It’s clear that this isn’t just a job or a pay check at the end of each month for him, he wants to win and succeed just as much as we do. He clearly understands the impact we have and encourages our support, and often talks about trying to win ‘for the fans’.

Few would have predicted that Conte’s first season would end with Chelsea as champions, even the man himself. After finishing 10th the campaign before, I would have been grateful with a top four finish and a return to Champions League football come May. At times it felt like we were in a downward spiral, and Conte reversed the damage in an extraordinarily short amount of time.

Our appreciative chants of ‘Antonio’ both home and away are met with applause from the dugout, and following our 3-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park last April, Conte described the relationship he has with us fans as ‘incredible’. The love affair has well and truly begun, and long may it continue.

A gold-coloured 2017/18 season ticket fell through my letterbox a few weeks ago. As the Champions return to pre-season training and get ready for the Asian tour, we look ahead to August and get ready to do it all over again. With Conte at the helm, we’ll only be aiming for the top.

By Hannah Kurzawski, Chelsea fan.