London, July 14 (IANS) Chelsea’s new chief coach Antonio Conte on Thursday asked his footballers to forget the disastrous previous season as he demanded hard work to bring the club back to the European Champions League.
Conte, who coached Italy at the recently concluded Euro championship, has been tasked with revamping and revitalising the under-firing squad that failed to defend the English Premier League (EPL) title and finished 10th. Only top four EPL sides play in the Champions League.
“Last season was a bad season. We know, but we must think to the present and work hard every day to be something important,” Conte said in his first official press conference at Chelsea.
“We must fight for the title, we belong in the Champions League and we must stay (get back) there,” the 46-year-old added.
“Maintaining a small profile, I hope we can surprise people and that there is a small flame flickering that can grow into a blazing inferno.”
Conte, who trained Chelsea for the first time on Wednesday at the club’s Cobham base, expects his players to run themselves into the ground in their quest for success.
“If you run more than the others, you have more probability to win. I am a worker. I know only this road to win. I found the right attitude and behaviours in Cobham. I’m very happy for this,” Conte, who played for Itay 20 times, said.
“Today is the second day of training at Cobham. It’s fantastic to work. In these two days I saw the players with the right attitude. They have the will to fight for the shirt, to compete for the best position, to compete to win the title.”
Conte’s arrival in England comes after he led Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, where they were beaten by Germany in a penalty shoot-out.
He deployed a 3-5-2 formation in France but denied he is certain to use the same tactic at Chelsea and instead compared building a team to making a dress.
“I will always search to find the right position for the players,” he said. “When I was in Italy I liked to say the manager was like a tailor who must build a dress — the best dress for the team.
“You must respect the talent of the team, of the players, you learn and then you can change. Three at the back, four at the back, right now it is not important. Right now the right spirit is most important and to give good organisation and good training.
“I want to transfer my methods to the players. Tactical, technical and physical, to become strong enough to overcome difficulties in training session and during games. We must show our enthusiasm to the fans on the pitch.”
Conte also revealed that veteran defender John Terry will remain as club captain.
And having managed Italian giants Juventus, where he led them to three successive Serie A titles, he insisted he’s used to the weight of expectation.
“The pressure is not important for me. I was born with pressure. It is normal if you are a footballer or a manager at a great club like Chelsea you must play to win, to compete to win the title and to reach your targets,” Conte, who also captained Juventus, said.
“I am very happy to start working in a new country, a fantastic league, the most difficult in the world. This league is very difficult. There are six or seven teams that can win the title. This situation excites me.
“I am excited for this moment and to start a new season with Chelsea. This is a new chapter for my life, for my career, for me and my family.”