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Conte: Christmas cheer

Football at this time of year inevitably raises the subject of a winter break and Antonio Conte has considered that prospect with not long to go now until he takes charge of his first Boxing Day match.

The feast of football enjoyed by English supporters over the festive period is a long-held tradition in this country, but for many years now some have pointed to the games played over Christmas and New Year as a potential cause of the national team’s shortcomings. In Conte’s native Italy, they stop for a fortnight.

‘I heard of this situation in England, and I heard a lot of coaches being disappointed to not stop to have a winter break, above all in the national team,’ the boss said.

‘I remember [Fabio] Capello always saying the lack of winter break penalised the national team a lot. It’s very difficult to answer, but the atmosphere to play in this period is very difficult to find in another period, and it’s fantastic.’

Christmas itself will have an unfamiliar feel for Conte and his family this year, but nonetheless he is just delighted to be able to spend it with them.

‘My wife and my daughter have arrived to prepare to celebrate Christmas in my house with my brothers and my parents. This is very good.

‘This is the first experience for me and in my family to work and play football. I think it can be and I hope it will be a fantastic experience.

‘It’s very strange for us because in this period we are used to being on holiday. Sometimes we went to Lecce, sometimes we stayed in Torino. Once we went to Dubai.

‘You have to celebrate Christmas with the family, that’s the most important. It’s not important where you stay but it’s important to stay together.’

The pre-Christmas training sessions had an added festive element on Friday with the Chelsea Academy's Under-8s team invited to watch and meet the players, as can be seen in the photos below.

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