Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has kept his head while everyone else is losing theirsby Andy Dillon / 18 August 2017, 13:58Tweet
IT’S REGULATION SIZE FIVE for everyone else but one thing about Antonio Conte is that he possesses huge balls.
In a week when the searing heat of the spotlight has been turned on Chelsea for many reasons, the manager refused to bow to pressure and instead threw a kids’ party at the training ground on Wednesday.
Right slap, bang in the midst of a perceived crisis with incoming transfers at a trickle, key players losing their heads in key matches and embarrassing results, the Italian made sure the show went on - for the players’ families at least.
Jelly, ice cream, hot dogs, trampolines and bouncy castles and a crowd of annoying brats running wild all over a luxury training ground would not be every manager’s ideal way to cope.
Remember that scrooge Harry Redknapp once famously cancelled Christmas after his Portsmouth team crashed 3-0 to Southampton in December 2003 - pulling his players in for training throughout the holidays.
The family fun day had been arranged prior to the defeat at home to Burnley on the opening day of the season last Saturday so it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing.
Even so, there are many in the managerial fraternity who would have taken such a setback as the perfect excuse to go into lockdown.
Conte did ban visitors and the players’ hangers on from the tourist trip around Cobham for a few days towards the tail end of last season when Chelsea’s title charge stumbled momentarily.
It did the trick and Conte is now a Premier League champion after just one season working in England. But things are a bit different at present.
There is an air of anxiety at Chelsea, a sense that the feelgood factor from last season is unravelling already.
Conte is frustrated with his paymasters at the lack of recent signings. He is understandably upset with results and with the behaviour of players like Cesc Fabregas who got himself sent off needlessly last weekend and is now banned for a key match against Tottenham.
There is also a standoff with rebel striker Diego Costa burning away in the back of his mind. A nasty little boil of a situation that needs lancing.
But while contending with all that, this devoted Italian family man made sure the kids still got their big day.
What does that tell you about him? It tells us that Conte has maintained his sense of perspective, has kept his head while everyone else is losing theirs.
Does it have a message to his players? A big chill day while the storm clouds gather may just free his troops of the negativity for a while.
It’s Conte’s equivalent of a corporate team building exercise. Those days out when normally feuding colleagues build rafts from oil drums, capsize and come home the best of pals.
Whatever the outcome for Conte in the increasingly fraught, overblown and overwhelming world of football he must be applauded for keeping it business as usual - even if it is anything but.