Antonio Conte is using both his knowledge of the young players at Chelsea and his experience when he was Italy manager to predict a bright future for the England national team following success at Under-17 level.
Four Chelsea Academy players, Marc Guehi, Callum Hudson-Odoi, George McEachran and Jon Panzo, began England U17s’ dramatic World Cup final win at the weekend with Conor Gallagher introduced as a substitute having also been involved earlier in the competition, and Conte has been keeping an eye on their and other junior international teams’ progress.
‘Congratulations to the team, to win the World Cup with the Under-17s means they are working very well,’ praised the Chelsea boss.
‘I think football in England is growing in an incredible way because it is not the only result for the young players. The Under-19s won, the Under-20s won and the Under-21s also played a really good European Championship. It means football in England is growing and improving a lot.
‘I am sure in the future the England national team, the first team, will be difficult to beat. I want to say this because I was a coach of the Italian national team and when you have this movement behind, you can have a great possibility to have a strong team for the next World Cup and for the competitions for the national team.
‘And I am very happy for our five [England Under-17 players]. Sometimes Hudson-Odoi (pictured above) came to train with us [the Chelsea first team squad], and I am very happy for our Academy because it means our Academy is working very well.’
Conte highlighted the recent start for 17-year-old Ethan Amapdu in the Carabao Cup win over Everton as demonstration there are possibilities for young prospects in the Chelsea first team and he added:
‘My first appearance in Serie A was when I was only 16 years old. I think I am the best person to give this type of possibility if I see that a young player deserves it. And my experience at Juventus with Paul Pogba, he was only 18 years old and then after one month he played from the start. I want to give this possibility but you have to deserve it. Amapdu for example is a player who is only 17 years old but he deserves to stay with us and develop and be the future of Chelsea.’
More immediately for Conte and the Chelsea squad is Tuesday’s game in Rome where a win would put us through to the knockout stage with two games to spare, the start of a big week with Manchester United at home to follow and the possibility to close the gap on them in the Premier League.
‘For sure we have to try to do this,’ said Conte. ‘It won’t be easy but first of all we have to go game by game and now the most important game for us is the Roma game in the Champions League. Then after this game we will start to think towards Manchester United.
‘We know that the Roma game will be very tough and in the first game we played at home, in the end it was a good result but for sure I would like to play better. I have players who have good experience to face this type of situation and we want to try to play better than the first game.’