RUNNING UP THAT HILL
Antonio Conte is fast becoming The Fiver’s favourite manager. Sure, we’re largely terrified of him, and on balance we’d rather cross Keyser Söze. But from a safe distance we can’t get enough of his capricious charisma, managerial brilliance and, most of all, his rampant disdain for what the hive think. What some describe as defensive football, Conte calls pragmatic. What others call their opinion, he calls wrong. And what some call sadistic, he calls pre-season training.
Footage of Spurs in South Korea has been doing the rounds this week, and Matt Doherty has been discussing the unique experience of fitness training with Conte. “It’s not like anything I’ve done before,” he wheezed, becoming the first Premier League footballer to conduct a press conference while bench-pressing a 20-kilo medicine ball. “This is hard, it’s the hardest pre-season I’ve had. I don’t know if there will be any teams fitter than us. You get great satisfaction once the session is over. Your mind has been tortured in the middle of it but when it’s done you feel proud. You’re just thinking, ‘don’t quit’, even if you crawl over the line or have to jog or walk towards the end. It’s that determination the manager has instilled in us to keep going and never quit.”
The end of one Spurs session looked like a Reservoir Dogs remake, with bodies strewn everywhere, though we don’t remember Harry Kane being physically sick in the Quentin Tarantino original. It seems Conte’s fitness coach, the mercy-averse Gian Piero Ventrone, has an unorthodox interpretation of the phrase “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. The Fiver hasn’t seen the like since the days of Jock Wallace and his hill, when the question “how high?” was a legitimate response to the instruction “run”, never mind “jump”.
Conte isn’t doing all this for kicks or clicks. His brutal pre-season has a single purpose: to once and for all take the Y out of Spursy. He is a serial winner, who will take any gain whether it’s marginal, maximal or follicular, and his gold-encrusted CV is why all the players are embracing the pain: that moreish, rewarding, utterly excruciating, hang-on-am-I-blacking-out pain. The other reason is that Conte has the lowest nonsense threshold since Opta started keeping a record of such things in 2003-04, so woe betide anyone who asks him whether a 97th shuttle run is entirely necessary, or what time the curfew is on Friday night.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Horrible to play against, horrible” – Thomas Tuchel explains why he signed Raheem Sterling for Chelsea in this chat with Ed Aarons.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
A robber who was part of a gang who tied up former England player Ashley Cole in front of his children and threatened to cut off his fingers has been jailed for 30 years. Kurtis Dilks was convicted alongside five others for their roles in a string of what prosecutors said were “ruthlessly executed” robberies and burglaries.
England head coach Sarina Wiegman will miss their Euro 2022 match with Northern Ireland after testing positive for Covid. Arjan Veurink takes temporary charge.
France have lost Marie-Antoinette Katoto for the remainder of the Euros after she suffered a knee injury in the 2-1 win over Belgium.
Italy are still clinging on, but only after a 1-1 draw with Iceland. “This is a European Championship of suffering for us,” sighed head coach Milena Bertolini.
Uefa just keeps on digging after it emerged that the two Portuguese professionals appointed to work with the chairman of its “independent review” into the European final chaos Paris have both worked extensively for the body.
Barcelona have signed Leeds jewel Raphinha, presumably using the £17m they are reported to owe transfer-window mainstay Frenkie de Jong. “The beautiful game is back to Barcelona and that’s very meaningful to our club,” whooped president Joan Laporta. “For us, it is very exciting because all of us who have lived through Barça golden times, there has always been a Brazilian.”
Real Madrid have slammed their transfer window shut. In this heat? “We won’t sign anyone else,” cheered Carlo Ancelotti. “We’re fine as we are.”
Christian Eriksen is a Manchester United player. “I still have major ambitions in the game,” he tooted. “There is a huge amount I know I can achieve, and this is the perfect place to continue my journey.” United, meanwhile, made light work of Melbourne Victory with a flamin’ 4-1 friendly win.
Nathan Aké has ridden Manchester City’s revolving door right around after a deal with Chelsea could not be reached.
Everton are not for sale, so says the club’s ever-popular owner, Farhad Moshiri, who would, though, accept “minority investment” to finance the club’s new stadium.
Nottingham Forest have signed goalkeeper and keen historian Wayne Hennessey. “It’s a very exciting time to come on board and I can’t wait to get involved,” he saluted.
And self-proclaimed “football philosopher” Sepp Blatter has rocked back up on Social Media Disgrace Twitter. “Hello my friends, I’m back, still going strong, seven years of lies have ended,” he hooted. “Now the game is again in the right direction. Or as Michel Platini puts it: you will hear from us again. I wish you a great weekend.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Ronaldinho and his musical father are just two of the reasons why Raphinha has gone to Barça, writes David Hytner.
When Ipswich won the title as a newly-promoted club under Alf Ramsey. By Gavin Barber.
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July 15, 2022 at 08:43PM Rob Smyth