England fans ‘must not worry’ about Harry Kane’s fitness, insists Conte | Harry Kane

Antonio Conte has played down concerns over Harry Kane’s fitness levels for the World Cup, having said on Wednesday that the England captain was “very, very tired” after starting 21 games in a row for Tottenham.

The Spurs manager backed the forward to enjoy a “fantastic” tournament and defended his decision to keep playing Kane during a packed run of domestic fixtures. “It’s very difficult to make a decision to put him on the bench,” Conte said. “We are talking about a player with great experience to manage his body.”

Kane was withdrawn after an hour of the midweek Carabao Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest and Conte revealed afterwards the 29-year-old had been struggling with fatigue in a training session on Tuesday. Despite that, the Italian insists he has no concerns about Kane before Saturday’s visit of Leeds, or for England’s campaign in Qatar.

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“I think and I am sure Harry is going to play a fantastic World Cup because in this season he was never injured, he has had the possibility to have a good training session and he is good physically,” Conte added. “The fans must not be worried for him. After this game they [England] have one week, eight days to prepare for the World Cup, but he is ready because he is working very well.”

Conte had planned to rest Kane at some point during a run of 13 games in 43 days, but injuries to Dejan Kulusevski, Richarlison and Son Heung-min left Tottenham short of attacking options. The former Italy manager also warned Gareth Southgate that Kane “wants to play every game. This is important for me because it means he feels well. He wants to finish well with us. Tottenham is at the top of his thoughts until Saturday [night].”

“He is the captain of England, the most representative player, we are talking about a really top striker in the world,” Conte continued. “[The World Cup] is a big competition, the most important in the world and he has great desire to do something special for his national team, but they have to do this after the [Leeds] game.

“When you are a player like Harry that gives you everything in every game, it’s very difficult to put him on the bench or to give him a rest because [of] his desire, and his eyes are full of energy.”

Conte’s Tottenham deal expires at the end of the season, although the club reportedly hold an option to trigger a 12-month extension. The manager does not see the need to urgently discuss terms, but said the January transfer window will be a key topic of discussion with the club hierarchy.

“In my opinion, it’s important for me professionally [that] I have to feel I deserve to have a new contract with this club. I have to feel this. But for sure we’ll talk with the club and we’ll find the best solution,” Conte said. “It depends always on the possibilities of the club and also the ambition, but for sure we’ll speak.”

Conte added that conversations with the chairman, Daniel Levy, and sporting director Fabio Paratici have been “good”, but suggested that talks over “realistic ambitions” for the club are required. “Until now we worked only with this target to improve, and to find a good way to bring this club to be competitive,” he added.

“For this reason it will be very important to speak [and] to understand very well what is the realistic possibility for us, which are the realistic ambitions for the club, because I think the truth is very important. If you know the truth, you can work to find the best solution for the future.”

Conte asks Spurs fans for ‘time and patience’ after boos in Liverpool loss | Tottenham Hotspur

Antonio Conte hit back at Tottenham’s fans for booing his side off at half-time during their side’s 2-1 defeat by Liverpool on Sunday.

Spurs were made to count the cost of another slow start after an impressive second-half comeback failed to yield a late equaliser. Two goals from Mohamed Salah were enough for Liverpool to earn their first away win of the season but Conte was not unhappy with his side’s performance. The Italian argued Spurs deserved a point and he said that their fans have to understand that their side are a work in progress.

“First of all, I think that we have to show in every moment a great respect to our fans because they are our fans,” Conte said. “They pay for their tickets. At the same time, if you ask me if I was happy or disappointed, yes.

“I continue to repeat since from the start of the season that we have just started a process and I think after one year we made a lot of improvement. If someone thinks we are already ready to win, I have to be honest and tell you it will be really, really difficult because when you start a process you need time and patience.

“If you understand this, everybody is OK. Otherwise we can lose the passion, the enthusiasm. I can’t promise, in this moment, trophies to our fans. I continue to ask for time and patience because I have the experience to do this. We are far from other teams that are used to winning. If we understand this it will be good. Everybody wants to win, I am the first but we need time and patience.”

Spurs, who have ceded third place to Newcastle, were given hope by Harry Kane’s goal. But Liverpool, who are seven points behind Conte’s side, dug deep for the points.

“We had to keep fighting,” Jürgen Klopp said. “We did that. We like that. People who know us know if you want to win an away game this is a normal way to do it. This is a completely normal game for us. We drew twice against Tottenham last season, so winning here is incredibly difficult. We have to show this attitude and commitment to defending. We have to show that we are not punched too hard when we concede a goal.”

‘We’re third, we can’t be that bad’: Matt Doherty on Conte, comebacks and Spurs’ style | Tottenham Hotspur

Matt Doherty strides purposefully into the interview room ready to discuss a challenging period in his professional life and a number of wider issues at Tottenham. But first things first. Is it still Matt? Or must it be Matthew, as Antonio Conte insists on calling him, in the manner of a fond uncle?

“Yeah, I’ve never once heard Matt from him,” Doherty says of his manager, whom he credits with transforming pretty much everything in the squad. “It’s always Matthew. That is my name, I guess. But Matt is fine.”

It is a fun and positive start from a Spurs player, which is not something that any of them have managed in a match over the past three weeks. When they disappeared into their shells at Marseille on Wednesday night, limping into half-time at 1-0 down to flirt with Champions League disaster, it continued an unwanted trend and fed into a developing narrative.

It was the sixth time in a row that Spurs had missed the first half of a game, the notes on their performances ranging from one-paced and predictable to awol, and it led to plenty of fretting and moaning, even after yet another second-half transformation, this one bringing a 2-1 win and a first-placed finish in the group.

English football loves a good start. A new signing, for example, can seemingly buy months of credit by lighting things up on his debut. But if the frustration comes before the control, it is a different equation – as Spurs are discovering.

There is certainly a lot of criticism blowing the way of the team third in the Premier League before this weekend as they prepared for Sunday’s visit of Liverpool and one looking forward to seeded status in Monday’s Champions League last-16 draw, with much of it rooted in the way they play.

When Spurs struggle, they can be a tough watch: deep and cautious, with little going on ahead of the ball. It has even led to the Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope theory. The lacklustre starts are because of how Conte sets up the team. He wants to lure the opposition into a false sense of security, which might be a neat trick were it not nonsensical in football.

Matt Doherty shakes hands with his manager, Antonio Conte, after Tottenham’s victory against Everton on 15 October.
‘If Antonio Conte trusts in you, it’s a big thing.’ Matt Doherty shakes hands with his manager after Tottenham’s victory against Everton on 15 October. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

“It’s just the way the games have gone,” Doherty says. “We are not set up at all to just sit there and allow things to happen. You’ve got to respect other teams’s gameplans, how they are trying to nullify our game. I don’t think we’ve been as bad as people may think. People just seem to jump on that bandwagon. We’ve got through the group in the Champions League. We’ve a cup game next Wednesday [Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup] and we’re third in the league. So we can’t be that bad.” Look at results and the table: it is a sentiment that coaches such as Conte will always push. Doherty wants to add something else, a glass-half-full take.

“People think the comebacks can’t last for ever,” he says. “But at some point we’ll start taking the lead in games and then teams will find it hard. We’re going through a period now where we’re conceding first and we’re having to chase the game but we are chasing well. Once we start to fire the goals in first, it will be a bigger problem for teams.

“A lot of it comes down to our fitness. We are just able to maintain the pace for 90 minutes. We train hard. We had a hard pre-season but after that we train hard almost every day, even leading up to games. I’ll be surprised if there are many teams fitter than us.”

Doherty acknowledges the influence of Gian Piero Ventrone, the club’s greatly respected fitness coach, who died on 6 October. “He had a huge say in the fitness regime, I would say nearly all of the say.” But at the heart of everything is Conte, who celebrated the first anniversary of his appointment on Wednesday.

“The biggest changes under him?” Doherty says. “Fitness and just tactically. We are switched on a lot more. Technically we have all improved but he has changed our mentality the most. He has just put that something into us where we kind of feel like we can’t be beaten. You’re still going to lose games but when you have that ‘over my dead body’ mentality, you are going to win tons more. It’s just what he’s done in the game, everything he’s won. If Antonio Conte trusts in you, it’s a big thing.”

Matt Doherty receives treatment after rupturing his medial collateral ligament against Aston Villa in April 2022
Matt Doherty receives treatment after rupturing his medial collateral ligament against Aston Villa in April. The injury prematurely ended his season. Photograph: James Williamson/AMA/Getty Images

Doherty had won that trust, a little belatedly, from the end of February; he had a run in the starting XI and found rare form. Which is why it was devastating when he ruptured the medial collateral ligament in a knee at Aston Villa on 9 April. The injury finished his season and, it turned out, undermined the first two months of this one.

The 30-year-old got himself back for the beginning of pre-season training and the view from the outside was that he must have been fine. He was not, continuing to feel pain and restriction to his movement. Were there dark moments? It sounded like it.

“It’s only because of the previous time that I’ve had at Spurs where I’ve been struggling to really get my career kicked off,” Doherty says. “Getting into the team, I felt so good and we were playing really well. And then over the summer as well, missing the internationals with Ireland, and you’re doing rehab on your own … it’s not that pleasant. I’ve had to overcome quite a few things. But I have confidence in my body and my game right now. My mind is clear.”

Tottenham must show their nasty side on date with destiny in Marseille | Tottenham Hotspur

As Tottenham prepare for a date with destiny – at the Stade Vélodrome against Marseille on Tuesday night – Antonio Conte cannot escape the feeling that it ought not to have come to this; his club’s qualification to the Champions League last-16 should already be secure.

It was – at their own stadium last Wednesday; then it was not. And the fallout to the VAR-driven decision to disallow what would have been a stoppage-time Harry Kane winner against Sporting Lisbon has changed everything; joy to foreboding with the click of one of those lines. Spurs now need a draw to go through. Lose and they would be pressed into the Europa League.

There is the detail of the red card that Conte was shown by the referee, Danny Makkelie, in the emotional aftermath of the Kane goal which was not – Conte was given it for encroaching onto the pitch and it means he will be banned from the dressing-room and touchline in Marseille. His last direct contact with the players will come on the bus to the stadium.

How will Conte communicate from his seat in the stands to the dug-out? By having his brother, Gianluca – a member of the coaching staff – beside him, who will then radio down. Uefa’s rules on indirect communication are not without their grey areas. If there are practical problems and the Marseille manager, Igor Tudor, said it would be better that Conte was inconvenienced, they are outweighed by the psychological ones.

The thing to stress is that the VAR got the Kane call right, however bizarre it felt and however much it appeared to show that hardly anyone actually knows the laws of the game these days. So Spurs simply have to suck it up and get on with it. It is not that simple, however, and what the flashpoint has done is to add another layer to the mental challenge that confronts Conte and his players.

It was interesting to follow the direction of Conte’s anger after the Sporting tie and, indeed, on Friday when he sat down to preview Saturday’s Premier League fixture at Bournemouth, which Spurs would win 3-2 having been 2-0 down – a significant boost. Conte does not believe that a bigger club would have seen a goal chalked off in similar circumstances, a club that play the angles harder, who apply greater pressure where he thinks it can matter. Conte did not mention Juventus, the giants of Italy where he spent the bulk of his playing career and also managed, but they were surely in his thoughts.

Antonio Conte arrives at the stadium during the club's buildup to the group decider
Antonio Conte’s team must avoid defeat in France to progress from their group. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images

The mind went back to when Spurs were knocked out of the 2017-18 Champions League by Juventus in the last-16 and the then Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochettino, accused the Italians of pressurising the referee in the tunnel at half-time – players and senior executives equally on the case.

Pochettino said there were “two games against this type of club – one on the pitch, one outside it” and Juventus had given Spurs “a massive lesson in how to behave” in the latter. He added: “It was easy for the referee to manage us because we were very nice people.”

At Spurs, Conte has urged the hierarchy on more than one occasion to lean more heavily on those who put together the fixture schedule, while in the wake of the VAR drama against Sporting he told the chairman, Daniel Levy, and the managing director, Fabio Paratici, to speak to the authorities about recent decisions that have gone against them. “I understood that to be silent is not good,” Conte added.

The week before last, Conte had also ordered his players to be alive to the game’s darker arts and it all feeds into the need for Spurs to think and act like a big club, the perennial narrative about them having to harden their mentality.

The Vélodrome will have its Virage Nord closed after incidents involving the Marseille support against Eintracht Frankfurt in September but the atmosphere is sure to be hot and it is incumbent on Spurs to show their personality in possession, to be ruthless as a team and even “nasty” – to borrow the word that Conte has used. They must do so from the outset, rather than saving their aggression and a sense of abandon for when the result threatens to slip away, as they have done of late.

When did Spurs last impose themselves in the first half of a game? Not in any of their previous five, beginning with the matches against Everton, Manchester United and Newcastle. It is a worrying trend and one that Conte must rectify because Marseille will have a major bearing on how the season is viewed. The manager will have to make do without Cristian Romero, Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison. The assistant coach, Cristian Stellini, reported that all three were still out with injuries.

Spurs have failed to perform to the required level in each of the past seven European away ties, going back to the 3-0 Europa League humbling against Dinamo Zagreb in March 2021. There were three losses and a draw in the Europa Conference League last season and so far in the Champions League it has been the last-gasp capitulation against Sporting and the stalemate with Eintracht.

“Every time we play a high-level team, we struggle,” Conte noted after the defeat at Manchester United two weeks ago. Marseille are not in that bracket, with Tudor keen to promote their “outsider” status. The stakes, though, could scarcely be more lofty.

Conte faces ban from Spurs dugout and dressing room at Marseille for red card | Tottenham Hotspur

Antonio Conte’s frustration is set to increase with the Tottenham manager facing a ban from Tuesday’s crucial Champions League match at Marseille.

Conte was sent off by the referee Danny Makkelie in the closing stages of Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at home against Sporting Lisbon for his remonstrations at the decision to disallow Harry Kane’s stoppage-time strike.

Uefa’s disciplinary regulations state: “Unless the competent disciplinary body decides otherwise, a player or an official sent off from the field of play and/or its immediate surrounds, including the technical area, is automatically suspended for the next match of the competition in which the expulsion occurred.”

Conte would not merely be missing from the touchline in Marseille, where Spurs need a draw to qualify for the last 16. He would not be permitted to make contact with his players at Stade Vélodrome before or during the fixture and will have to sit in the stand.

The regulations state: “A team manager/coach or other team official who is sent off or suspended from carrying out his function may not be in the technical area or communicate directly with the team’s players and/or technical staff during the match … In addition, a team manager/coach or any other team official who is suspended from carrying out his function may not enter the dressing room or tunnel before or during the match.”

Further punishment could come Conte’s way once Makkelie has handed in his match report of the Group D fixture. Had Spurs won they would have qualified for the knockout phase.

Conte was still seething when he spoke afterwards and Uefa may also investigate his post-match comments. During his short press conference, he accused VAR of being dishonest and creating “big damage” and insisted it would not have disallowed Kane’s goal had it been for a “top team, in an important game” before he walked out after one question.

Furious Antonio Conte ‘doesn’t see honesty’ after VAR disallows Kane goal | Tottenham Hotspur

Antonio Conte launched a furious attack on the “honesty” of refereeing and the VAR system after a late decision overruled a winner in Tottenham’s 1-1 Champions League draw with Sporting.

Deep in injury time, Harry Kane knocked in Emerson Royal’s assist to set off wild celebrations that were curtailed when the video assistant intervened. Kane was ruled offside, and in the melee that followed Conte was dismissed for his protestations to the Dutch referee, Danny Makkelie, and his assistants.

Tottenham must negotiate Marseille next Tuesday to qualify for the knockout rounds when Kane’s goal would have guaranteed progress. “All the people came on to the pitch and the referee decided to send me off,” an indignant Conte said.

“Only for this. I think there are moments you can be intelligent to understand you have disallowed a regular goal because the goal is regular because the ball is in front of Kane and then … VAR.”

The manager chose to make a wider point about VAR and its effect on Tottenham’s season. “You know I don’t comment on ref’s decision but the VAR this season, we are not so lucky,” he said. “Until now we are only the team that has repeated a penalty. And every penalty I go to see if the keeper moves on the line and then I see it a lot of the time.

“I want to see a repeat of penalties in the Premier League … I think they create a big damage. I would like to see if this type of decision made with a top team in an important game.

“I would like to see if the VAR is so brave enough to make an unfair decision. I’m really upset because sometimes you can ask this situation sometimes, I think it’s not good. I don’t see honesty in this type of situation, when I don’t see this I become really upset.”

Sporting had led until the 80th minute through Marcus Edwards’s goal, only for Rodrigo Bentancur to equalise with a header. “Sporting deserved to stay 1-0 up,” Conte said. “Then the end of the game we deserve to get three points but now [after] the decision we have to wait to the last game.”

Conte appeared to ask the Spurs hierarchy for aid in pursuing his complaint. “I hope the club understands this and then in the right situation they also speak with the people they have to speak with because otherwise it is only the manager to speak. I think the club has to be strong because I repeat this situation creates big, big damage. Now we don’t know what happen next week. If we go out, then I want to see.”

Spurs’ Antonio Conte focused on present but wants squad backup in January | Champions League

Antonio Conte has insisted his focus at Tottenham is on the present after he refused to be drawn on plans for the January transfer window.

Spurs host Sporting in the Champions League on Wednesday knowing victory in the Group D fixture would send them through to the last 16. They enter the match following back-to-back defeats and with injuries piling up, which led Conte to ask whether a busy winter market could be key to a strong second half of the campaign.

“I think the club understand very well the importance of bringing in important players, good players, in January. I’m not the person who has to explain this to my club,” Conte said. “If you ask me in January what happens when we have to play many other games, we will have to try to do our best.

“I repeat we have to take this big achievement of going to the next round tomorrow and take this opportunity to do it. We want to finish in the best possible way before the World Cup. My priority now is not January but to finish in the best possible way before the World Cup.”

Conte has spoken in recent weeks about the process Tottenham are on to become genuine contenders in the Premier League and Champions League. It was put to the 53-year-old Italian that Spurs have an opportunity this season with Chelsea and Manchester United under new management and seemingly in transition. But Conte refuted that notion.

“This season will be more difficult than last season because after the transfer market you have seen many, many teams have spent a lot. You have to face a lot of big teams. For sure there will be the time to speak with the club. To understand what is the best solution for us.”

Eddie Howe says Newcastle ‘can achieve special things’ after win over Spurs | Premier League

Newcastle climbed into the Premier League top four after winning 2-1 at Tottenham with their manager, Eddie Howe, declaring “we can achieve special things with this group”.

First-half goals from Callum Wilson and Miguel Almirón were enough to beat third-placed Spurs, who failed to mount a second-half comeback after Harry Kane’s 54th‑minute goal.

“Hopefully this gives us the confidence to know we can go anywhere,” Howe said. “Physically, technically, tactically we performed at a very high level. I think we can beat anyone if we play like that.”

Having drawn with Manchester City and Manchester United, and lost against Liverpool in August, their only defeat so far, this was Newcastle’s first win against a “Big Six” club this season. They will enter the World Cup break next month in contention for Champions League qualification.

“It was a really good performance today, probably the best performance since I’ve been here,” said Howe, who succeeded Steve Bruce last November. “I thought we were really brave both in and out of possession.”

Bruno Guimarães starred in midfield despite two sleepless nights after becoming a new father this week. Howe said of the Brazilian: “He was outstanding today. He’s given his heart and soul to the club and he’s an outstanding player.”

Howe was keen to point out that Newcastle’s two goals were scored by players signed before the club’s Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund‑resourced takeover 12 months ago. “A lot of them were here anyway. Credit the players for the performance, don’t look at how the team was put together.”

Tottenham’s defeat followed their midweek loss at Manchester United to loosen their own grip on a top‑four place and their manager, Antonio Conte, blamed a heavy schedule overworking his thin squad.

“We have to try to keep the fingers crossed and don’t have injuries because we are not a team with such a depth of squad to face competitions like the Premier League and Champions League, but this is not something against the club,” the Italian said. “We need to go step by step and have time and patience and have two or three transfer markets to bring this squad to be competitive to play in two competitions like Premier League and Champions League.”

A hot-tempered game threatened to boil over after Wilson’s opening goal was scored following a collision with Spurs’ goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, and allowed to stand by VAR. Howe said: “If that’s two outfield players I don’t think the free-kick is given.”

Antonio Conte steeled to do battle with Manchester United ‘monster’ | Premier League

As a player at Juventus Antonio Conte had first-hand experience of what it meant to step out at Old Trafford, to feel the power of Manchester United, the aura of one of England’s superclubs.

Conte was the Juventus captain in 1999 when the teams locked horns in the Champions League semi-final and he opened the scoring in the 1-1 first-leg draw in Manchester. Inspired by Roy Keane, United would win the return leg 3-2, having been 2-0 down, en route to the treble.

There is no doubt that Conte was flattered when his agent told him that Sir Alex Ferguson rated him and wanted to sign him. “I knew through him that Mr Ferguson appreciated me a lot at that time,” Conte said, as he looked forward to taking his Tottenham team to Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

“You never know if the agent can tell you the truth or the lie! I didn’t speak to him [Ferguson] because I wanted to stay at Juventus and finish my career there.”

It is easy to become wistful for the Ferguson glory years, to acknowledge that Erik ten Hag’s United reboot still has many circuits to wire, but Conte continues to regard a trip to Old Trafford as a litmus test – especially on a psychological level.

Conte’s respect for United is plain; the financial might, how they back their managers with signings. If facing them under the Old Trafford lights is an occasion to get him going, it is also one he hopes can further progress what he is building at Spurs.

“Manchester United always have the power,” Conte said. “Even in the last 10 years [post-Ferguson], every season they had the power to go into the transfer market and invest big, big money.

“They did this after finishing second two seasons ago, signing Cristiano Ronaldo, [Jadon] Sancho and [Raphaël] Varane.

Conte scores at Old Trafford in the Champions League semi-final first leg in 1999.
Conte scores at Old Trafford in the Champions League semi-final first leg in 1999. Photograph: EPA/Shutterstock

“United will always be a monster that you have to go to fight. We are talking about a team that, if they don’t make big mistakes, they always stay in the top four, play Champions League and fight for the title and trophies.

“To play at Old Trafford is not simple. But at the same time it’s a big theatre and you have to play with personality, play your football, your ideas. This will be a good step for us to go there and play with personality and try to win. I enjoy the fact that this test is coming now.”

Conte’s team flunked it last season. United were there for the taking on 12 March, reeling from a 4-1 defeat at Manchester City, and Spurs put in a performance that deserved something. Yet they got nothing, Ronaldo scoring a hat‑trick in a 3-2 United win. There was too much of him, too little savvy from Spurs, with Conte saying after that his players had to know “when to push and when to be calm. You don’t buy experience, you improve it after these type of games.”

Much has changed since, not least for Ronaldo, who has frequently been overlooked by Ten Hag after trying to get a transfer in the summer. When he has been on the field, it has sometimes felt as if he could play all day and not score – a glaring illustration coming in the Europa League away game against Omonia, which United eventually won 3-2. Never write him off. Conte will not.

Spurs, meanwhile, have lost only three games in all competitions since then – one in April, two this season. They have made their best start to a league campaign since 1963-64 after 10 matches and Conte’s demands about tactical discipline, focus and sacrifice appear to be getting through. Self-belief is rising.

The World Cup looms but Conte does not see it as a distraction, pointing out that Harry Kane, the England captain, will not hold back between now and when the domestic season pauses. “I can tell you that Harry wants to play every game,” Conte said.

Conte roars instructions on the touchline as he watches Spurs on their way to victory against Everton
Conte roars instructions on the touchline as he watches Spurs on their way to victory against Everton. Photograph: Sportimage/Alamy

“A player that wants to play every game is not scared of injury or about missing the World Cup. Like the other [World Cup] players, Harry is really focused on Tottenham.”

It was interesting – and unusual – to hear Conte declare his preference to play 3-4-3 at United because he normally gives nothing away about his lineup. Perhaps it was a ruse and he will stick with the 3-5-2 system that made the difference from the 52nd minute of the 2-0 home win against Everton on Saturday, when he introduced Yves Bissouma for the injured Richarlison.

It felt like a demonstration of confidence in his methods, a doubling down before what he hopes can be a statement result. Conte is primed to slay the monster.

Antonio Conte’s spirit of sacrifice key to Tottenham’s quest for success | Tottenham Hotspur

As Antonio Conte approaches the first anniversary of his appointment by Tottenham, he continues to live in a central London hotel and so the conspiracy theorists question whether he intends to stick around for the long term. The manager’s contract is up at the end of the season, although the club have the option to extend it for one year. So he’s off soon, right?

The jokers, meanwhile, cannot see past the Alan Partridge aspect of it – the big plate in the restaurant and all the rest – even if, with all due respect to the Linton Travel Tavern, Conte’s digs are a cut above.

What people are more reluctant to process is the element of sacrifice which, in Conte’s case, involves him being away from his wife, Elisabetta, and their teenage daughter, Vittoria, who have remained in Italy. They visit regularly but it is not the same. When Conte got the Spurs job on 1 November of last year, he and Elisabetta did not want to uproot Vittoria from her school and that is still the case.

“I have to respect her moment because she’s growing and to change many schools is not good,” Conte said. “I’m really focused. We decided to go in this way with my family, also in this season, and then we will see. We will see in the future to try to find the best solution. It’s right to respect the family and, sometimes, if you have to put the family in front of you … [you do it].”

Conte is determined to lead by example at Spurs. He wants his wholehearted commitment to the club and how he suffers to be the template for everyone, beginning with the players.

As he prepared for Saturday’s visit of Everton, he noted how they had spent a lot of mental energy in Wednesday’s 3-2 Champions League home win over Eintracht Frankfurt. This is the nature of the competition. It is draining. But quite simply the players have to dig deeper. They need to know their limits and go beyond them. Everton boast the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League. They will be a tough nut to crack. It does not matter. Spurs must find a way.

Antonio Conte and his players plant a tree in memory of Gian Piero Ventrone, the Spurs fitness coach who died last week at the age of 61.
Antonio Conte and his players plant a tree in memory of Gian Piero Ventrone, the Spurs fitness coach who died last week at the age of 61. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images

“Everyone can speak about mentality, about a winning mentality,” Conte said. “The difficulty is to transfer this concept every day through their work, their behaviour. To build a winning mentality is fatigue. You have to be available to do this path and it’s not for all. I’m enjoying a lot to work with these players and try to involve the whole Tottenham environment because a winning mentality has to be for the whole club, not only the players.”

So, every department of the club, every pore of the building at Enfield – and Conte wants it to extend to the fans in the stadium. One of the big pluses of the season has been the team’s 100% home record in all competitions. And it has not been lost on Conte that four of their six league games before the World Cup break are at home.

Conte has felt the energy of the ground at various times, most memorably in the pivotal derby against Arsenal at the end of last season, when Spurs powered to a 3-0 win that set up their Champions League qualification. Three days after that, they faced Burnley in a Sunday midday kick-off and everybody knew the atmosphere would be much flatter. It was, although Spurs did win 1-0. Conte wants a consistently intimidating home crowd and it is a goal towards which each fan can contribute.

“I know very well – because I was a player – what it means to play away in a difficult atmosphere,” Conte said. “I remember this season [in the Champions League] at Sporting Lisbon and Eintracht Frankfurt and then in England at Nottingham Forest … it was really difficult, a lot of noise. When we play at home, our fans have to be a 12th player for us. We have to try to exploit that.”

Conte revealed that Dejan Kulusevski was out of the Everton match and he did not know whether the winger would be back for next Wednesday’s trip to Manchester United. Kulusevski, who damaged a hamstring on international duty with Sweden at the end of last month, suffered a setback in training on Thursday.