Has he gone yet? Mailbox unanimous in calling for ‘rancid’ Spurs to sack Antonio Conte

Ian Watson
A wet Antonio Conte watches on as Tottenham exit the Champions League to AC Milan.

The Mailbox is full of Tottenham fans waving off Antonio Conte. Also: are Neville and Carragher outdated? And Manchester United were never much good anyway…

Get your views in to theeditor@football365.com


Ciao, Conte
Antonio Conte made the decision to fly back from Italy ahead of the AC Milan game, and the question has to be… why?

If he had some special instruction to pass on to his players it was difficult to see what that was. If he wanted to provide some insight into how Milan could be beaten it would appear the players didn’t take it on board. If he wanted to just say “let’s play exactly how we play every single week: predictable, slow, ponderous, rigid, uncreative” you have to think it probably could have just been an email.

Conte’s tactics can be miserable at the best of times, but perhaps chief among his issues has been a total lack of willingness to change a single thing about his setup when it’s plainly not working. No fresh ideas, no innovation, nothing about it worth £15m a year.

There are many valid reasons you might choose to employ a 5 at the back setup, but here are some of the reasons Spurs have struggled under Conte’s setup:

– we have no good wingbacks
– our wide centre backs aren’t particularly brilliant at building play from the back and passing forward
– our possession doesn’t lead to our wingbacks being in good positions to create chances
– we play wingers in attack so you just end up with Kulusevski and Emerson standing on each other’s toes
– we’re left vulnerable to wide counter attacks
– we have no good wingbacks. I know that I’ve already mentioned this one, but it’s such a big flaw I thought it was worth mentioning twice

There’s no good reason to look at the squad Spurs have and decide to set them up in wingbacks, in fact it’s a sign that the manager has no adaptability.

Instead of dynamic wingbacks getting forward and back, we have the 34 year old ghost of Ivan Perisic stumbling around endangering the shins of opposition full backs, and Emerson Royal who is so averse to putting crosses in boxes he’s banned from his local polling station. Spurs’ best left back is (still somehow) Ben Davies who has spent most of his life in a back 4, and there’s every chance Spurs’ best right back is on loan in France having bizarrely barely being given a sniff.

Tony’s stay is well overdue, he should have gone before his insipid brand of football had spurs knocked out of both FA Cup and Champions League without scoring, and the cowardly, self protective sub of Davinson Sanchez for Kulusevski in the final seconds has to be the nail in the coffin

Will, THFC


…It’s time to say goodbye to Antonio. The football is getting worse, the players (bar Royal and Skipp – which is damning in itself) don’t look like they’re up for the fight and the fans have seemingly turned.

The formation (which I hate) is devoid of creativity, makes our midfield lambs to the slaughter, and has the wing backs contributing next to nothing as an attacking threat.

The tempo is metronomic and the patterns of play so easy to read. There is zero chaos created in the opposition third, zero zip in the passing. If anyone actually plays a through-ball the crowd loses their minds because it’s so rare to see.

And then there’s a squad with some actual talent in it (stop sniggering at the back) which is being mistreated, under-nurtured or both. Has Conte actually improved any player at Spurs? I don’t think he has.

Romero is meant to be our best defender but he’s a liability who wants to smash into everyone in sight, as well as taking a literal age to pass the ball. ‘Too casual’ doesn’t even begin to describe it when he’s in possession. Surely these traits should be easy to coach out of him, but if he’s beyond help, sell and reinvest before he’s damaged goods.

If Spurs went 4-3-3 (hello Poch!) and focused recruitment on defence and a No. 8, we’d have a proper team. We’re not broken, we’re just severely lacking direction.

It’s easy to blame Conte and the players, and that would be fair to a point. But really the footballing strategy at the club is a joke.

How the shit have we recruited three negative managers in a row after what Poch produced? And for what? I’d rather win nothing under Poch and be entertained than win nothing under Mourinho/Santo/Conte and want to rip my eyes out.

Mourinho and Conte are serial winners, Daniel? Lol. What they were and are is seriously past their best.

So yeah, Conte out (he’s not signing a new contract so what’s the point). But please for the love of God, Levy, if you’re going to hang around, learn from your mistakes and actually change the direction of this club, otherwise we’re just stuck in an endless cycle of Spursiness.

The fans deserve so much more than Tottenham being a punchline of your making.
David, Battersea

Read more: This Tottenham Hotspur is all fur coat and no knickers as they exit Champions League meekly


…You can blame Conte, you can blame Levy….both are valid. That being said, if you, as top level professional footballers – regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes – can’t get up for a knock out CL game, at home, against a shitty Milan side who haven’t won in England for 427 years, then you also need to take a large portion of the blame.

Draw or lose, I’ve not actually got an issue with that. Zero heart, no passion, a lack of hunger; there’s just no excuse for that. This is where the problem is for me. It’s sooo pedestrian. So dull. So boring. No one is willing to try anything dynamic. I usually love Romero but wtf was he doing? Dude is a liability.

In the space of a week we’ve been knocked out of 2 cups (1 we actually had a genuine chance of winning) and lost to Wolves in the league – opening the door to Liverpool and about 35 other teams who can go above us with their games in hand – meaning our top 4 hopes are sinking.

We are a total and utter joke. And you know what? I don’t even feel that much now. Enough to pen these recycled thoughts, but that’s about it.

The silver lining for people who do actually care is that the back 3 for the next game would have to be a mix of Dier, Sanchez, Dier and Tanganga. Imagine that against Bayern. Lol.

I’m done until Poch comes back in the summer.
Glen, Stratford Spur


…I’m repeatedly told that Romero is quality. World Cup Winner. Yet he doesn’t know how to stay on his f*cking feet. My mate’s infant son is better at it.

You know who else is apparently quality? Antonio Conte. It’s his job to win football matches and I’m not sure that switching Kulu out for Sanchez when we need a sodding goal to stay in the CL is the way to do it.

He’s not remotely inspiring and I’m not convinced they’re playing for him. And beyond acknowledging his achievements they can’t be enjoying his game plan.

I’m aware how entitled this probably sounds, I’ve no expectations about winning anything. I just want to enjoy watching us again. I’m enjoying watching Arsenal more than Spurs. Genuinely.

Levy isn’t going to back him and even if he did it would still be fucking miserable. At least Mou was entertaining for a bit.

Conte out.
Jon, Lincoln


…We are absolute bollocks. Rancid, awful, sh*te.
F*ck him off, he’s done.
TGWolf(Bielsa is still available right?)THFC

READ: Tuchel and Pochettino vie for top ranking among 10 best available managers


The unstoppable force
The only club Mourinho couldn’t win a trophy at. The only club Conte won’t win a trophy at. We are the club that cannot be tamed, and can break any legend of the game. You’ll never sing that. (Not that we actually want to sing that either, but we have to look for silver linings where we can find them)
Duncan in Ottawa


Ten Hag getting away with it
I find it funny how the players get crucified for the 7-0 loss Man U suffered. Everyone, from Bruno, Casemiro, Martinez and De Gea. All well and good, they were on the pitch. Something however tells me, if a person in charge receives the most praise when things go right when they are in charge, they should receive the most criticism when things go wrong , when they are in charge.

All I keep hearing is Eric Ten Hag, ETH, look at how brilliant he is, look how he has transformed Man U, look how disciplined they are, bla bla bla. All accolades he probably deserves. But, he is responsible for some of the worst blowouts this team has seen, ever. There was a 4-0, 6-3, and 7-0, and that 6-3, was really a cat playing with its victim mouse. How is he not getting called out?
Dave (Credit and Blame should be hand in hand), Somewhere

Manchester United midfielder and melt Bruno Fernandes

Fernandes furore
Ian Watson’s article, imo, completely missed the point when he referred to Neville and Keane, with the comment ‘’….the pair were renowned for not whinging at team-mates and maintaining an even temper when they captained United…That’s right isn’t it?’’. The stark difference is that when the chips were down for UTD, these 2 still gave 100%. They continued to work hard and show a level of desire on the pitch. Any whinging at teams mates, would have been towards those not giving it their all. Which to them would have been unacceptable, regardless of the score at that time. That’s what a captain does. Leads by example and drives others to perform as best they can on that given day – especially so when things are not going well.

For Ian to then dismiss him putting his hands on an official and not passing comment other than to deflect (oh well. The ref, VAR & ref turned pundit didn’t say anything, so it must be ok. Right?), is utterly bonkers. It doesn’t matter how physical he was towards the official. He pushed him and should have been sent off. The lack of action from the PGMOL is telling. We quite rightly see them and other Refs associations & FA’s calling for better behaviour towards officials, but they then allow a high-profile professional player to put his hands on an official and not receive any punishment.

Regardless of the nature or force of the push, it was a massively disrespectful incident and absolutely not acceptable at any level of the game. IMO. By not taking action, they are not doing themselves or, and perhaps more importantly, Grass roots refs any favours by ignoring it.
Neil, here, there and everywhere.


United were never that good
Now that the dust has settled a little from the mauling, I think it’s time to point out that Utd really aren’t that good… and the signs were there before this defeat.

Since the return after the World Cup United have been flattering to deceive with their results and here is a quick synopsis of most of them to this effect:

Leeds & Crystal – played each of them twice and dropped points in half those games. In the wins, they held on for dear life to a 1 goal win against Palace and then scored 2 in the last 10 mins against Leeds who were giving every bit as good as they got until then.

City – gifted the biggest joke of a goal (Rashford interfered with play, he simply did) by the refs to get a foothold back in a game that City were starting to control at a goal up.

Arsenal – 3-2 loss flattered Utd, they were quite good in the first half though in all fairness. If only matches were 45 mins long.

West Ham (FA Cup) – relegation worthy WH the better team comfortably in the first half at Old Trafford until Casemiro and Rashford brought off the bench.

Leicester – 3 nil would make you think it was comfortable but Leicester were the better team in the first 30 mins and Sabitzer should have seen a red on the 41st minute when it was still only 1 nil, go watch Mike Dean do his Sky Sports piece on this one.

Newcastle – won the league cup in a routine win against a Newcaslte side already on the downwards trajectory that now have 1 win in 10… Utd also were drawn at home in previous rounds against Villa, Burnley and Charlton…hard run, that.

And really just from a generic view, they’ve been carried by Rashford and Casemiro. There’s nothing wrong with having 2 very good players, it’s the lack of others in this bracket that make Utd not very good as a team. They’ve now been thoroughly outclassed by City, Arsenal and Liverpool yet again…Utd can thank their lucky stars that Liverpool and Chelsea have had the injury problems they’ve had this season as the Mancs have no right being in Champions League qualy spot, they just aren’t good enough. Liverpool putting in a performance like this just 2 games after finally getting their back 4 starting is no coincidence.
Patricio Del Toro (Liverpool putting in a performance like this just 2 games after finally getting their first choice back 4 in the team is no coincidence)


Duo dynamic
The Neville/Carragher double act used to be enjoyable but now it’s just boring, watching the two of them go at each other like a couple of morons on Fanzone or on a fan-channel. I would suggest that Sky should tell them to rein it in but Sky are probably delighted and encouraging it for the clicks. The joke isn’t funny anymore. Carragher is the more tolerable of the two but that’s only because Neville has always been a slimy weasel (the latest instance being when he said, without evidence, that Fernandes had asked to be substituted). Neville said a few years ago that he didn’t want to stay in punditry too long because it meant his playing days were getting further back and he would become more out-of-touch with the modern dressing room. The sooner he takes his own advice, the better.
Matthew, Belfast


Worthing more
Just a quick rebuttal to Dan from Worthing on why he’s never counted Liverpool as a rival despite being a man United fan. it’s cos you’re from Worthing, mate. I’m sure that if you were from Warrington or Wilmslow or Withington you would have grown up with a healthy hatred of all things LFC related..
Dan, London (no offence to Worthing. Cracking pier)


I don’t understand the modern fan. Flying a banner calling for your owners to go over your team’s stadium is your right I suppose. But flying it over a stadium that the owners have re-built in order for your team to continue competing at the highest level seems a bit silly. I understand the Americans aren’t perfect owners, but if this just becomes one petro-state against another, I will lose all interest. It’s nothing against said petro-states, it’s just that removing all risk and any skill from the off-the-field running of a club makes all the success on the field feel a bit hollow. I am a frustrated fan this season, but it’s also fascinating to watch Nunez and Gakpo bed in while seeing Bajcetic and Elliott try to grow enough to save us a few hundred million in the summer. I even like watching the gradual decline of Van Dijk and how he responds to Kanate growing into the main man. Teams should go up and teams should go down. Promotion and relegation is what makes your game better than any American one however much you could learn from them in terms of salary caps. Manchester United and Arsenal fans are enjoying the flow after the ebb, as is their right. As Jason Lee remarked in Vanilla Sky, the sweet never tastes as sweet without the sour. To be a new fan of PSG or Manchester City and never know sour: that friends is my own personal version of hell. I’d probably hire out a plane with a banner reading, “Sheikh Mansour Out! Perfection is Perfidy!”
Niall, Annapolis


Victor’s next move
There has been a lot of speculation about where this guy will end up playing in the near future so I thought weigh up the likelihood of which of the ‘Big Seven’ he will sign for.

Arsenal – I don’t think so, they will go for Caicedo or Rice and that will constitute the majority of their spend. He would cost more than both of those and even if they win the league they won’t have the money for him. Plus with Jesus in the team I think the focus will be to bring in players of similar calibre to him to support and cover for injury. Osimhen is too good for that.

Chelsea – Exactly what they need, can afford him and I would imagine Osimhen would be keen as London tends to be a big pull. Plus, I get the feeling that with or without Potter they will be deadly next season. Once the billion signings they make actually settle.

Liverpool – Don’t see this happening despite Firmino being on the way out. Imagine a forward line of Osimhen, Salah and Gakpo with Diaz and Jota in reserve, frightening. Still, I think Liverpool will be all in for Bellingham and by the time he eventually ends up at Madrid, Osimhen will have already signed for Utd.

Man Utd – Same deal as Chelsea, exactly what they need, they can probably afford him and will in all likelihood be in the Champions League next season. He’d be their star man and despite falling away in recent years there is still prestige when it comes to playing for them. Plus, despite London being a cool place to live, Manchester is still a pretty great city. The most likely of the Premier League clubs he will end up at in my opinion.

Man City – They have Haaland, probably for, 1, 2 more seasons, but they wont spend £100 million + on him despite their endless riches.

Newcastle – Nah, obviously money wise not a problem, but they aren’t at the stage to buy players like this yet. Even when City first became rich it took a little while to attract the cream of the crop. Maybe if they challenge for the league or go far in Europe next year, but no chance this time around.

Spurs – I am just putting them here so they don’t feel left out.
Andrew (he’d be a good replacement for Benzema too)


Finding love in non-league
A few seasons back, I attended one of my first ever non-league games (Maidstone v Ebbsfleet United) and then wrote into the mailbox to recommend the experience to other readers.

Well, in recent years, I can confirm that I am now a non-league convert (home and away with the mighty Fleet).

For context, I’m a 30something year old Chelsea fan, which means I am fortunate enough to have seen us go from mid table also rans, to (believe it or not) a likeable cup team full of those foreign types (before it was common), through to the Russian Rouble inspired glory years.

However, in recent years I have found myself caring less and less about the top level of the sport. Whether it be FIFA corruption/dubiously awarded major tournaments, the general diving/playacting of the players or the ever-rising cost of tickets/tv subscriptions (and the moving of kick-off dates/times without any consideration for fans), I was gradually falling out of love with the game.

The final death knell for me was VAR, which has somehow managed to singlehandedly suck the joy out of the game (you dare not celebrate a goal lest someone’s nose hair is 1mm offside, or there was some other minor indiscretion in the build-up), whilst simultaneously doing very little to actually rectify refereeing cock ups (wasn’t that the whole point?).

The above meant that for me, football had lost its panache. That was until I discovered non-league, and all its benefits:

Clubs/players who genuinely care about the fans/local community;
Very little play acting/diving;
Beer in the stands (National League North/South and below);
Away days to towns/grounds you previously had never heard of;
Affordable and easy to obtain tickets (c. £15 in total for me and my son versus the c. £200 I spent taking him to Chelsea earlier this season);
3PM Saturday kick-offs (anyone remember those?!); and
Did I mention, no VAR?

Yes, the football isn’t as good (albeit you would probably be surprised at the quality) and yes, the refereeing generally varies from incompetent through to outright ridiculous, but the pros far outweigh the cons, and ultimately, it’s far more akin to the sport I fell in love with as a kid as opposed to the global behemoth/business that top level football has sadly since become.

I can now fully understand Max Rushden (he of Soccer AM and ShoutSport fame), who describes himself as a “Cambridge City Fan, but Tottenham are my big club who win things”. As time goes on, I’m starting to consider myself more and more as an “Ebbsfleet fan, but Chelsea are my big club who win things”.

In summary.

Give non-league a go. You won’t regret it.

P.S Fleet won 7-2 last night. Fair play to the hundred or so Worthing fans who made the trip up on a Tuesday night.

P.P.S for what its worth, I still don’t think Potter is the man…
James (Gravesend)


Kolo, Kolo
Great piece on the Championship managers but you’re doing Kolo Toure a disservice by referring him to as a “Premier League winner”.

Players win the Premier League every season but how many can say they are an Invincible twice over?

I genuinely don’t know other than Kolo – maybe one of that AC Milan team?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Some thoughts
Ok, Liverpool humiliated us and we just have to take it on the chin. However, my question to Liverpool fans is – would you have taken a defeat if you could be GUARANTEED wins against Arsenal, City and Chelsea, who are all coming up in April?

Is it true they are now calling him Erik “Seven” Hag?

One contributor hit the nail on the head for me – Does United want Fernandes to be the symbol of the ethos or values of the club, especially when compared to those who came before such as Charlton, Robson, Keane, Rooney, etc.?

Players now know that that if they pretend they have been hit in the face, the game will stop so they are abusing it. Solution? If you claim to be hit in the face, you are taken off and you undergo mandatory concussion protocols. If you are truly hit in the face, you should be taken off and checked anyway.

Instead of penalties, why not decide ties by the number of times a goalkeeper touches the ball with their hands? Wouldn’t this be a better determinant of which side has done more attacking? It would also correlate well with shots on goal.

For situational substitutions, why stop the game so that the player can take a round of applause and waste time? If the game carried on, watch these players literally run off the field.

Everyone complains about the inconsistency of VAR. Why not have a central location with a team of experts where all VAR issues are sent. I can’t imagine it would take any longer to transmit the information and receive a decision. This way, that team can build on examples from prior weeks.
Adidasmufc (Stuck in an airport for a couple of hours!)


Right of replies
Morning all. Don’t recall ever having a mailbox with so many individual responses available but here goes.

Pardeep, Marc. Spot on, the Bajetic incident was when I thought “bugger” get Fernandez off the pitch or this will get worse.

Andy Eire THFC. 100% what you said.

Badwolf. I agree the next couple of games for both clubs will ultimately define their seasons. Liverpool get through in Madrid and Man United lose to Betis is a worsening of the nightmare I endured. Vice versa then, meh, it was three points dropped, stop worrying.

Jeremy, Ash, Nishul. a) Not win a cup and not lose 7-0, or b) win one of the four available cups and lose 7-0. FFS it is b) every time.

Lee, Dan. United are “hated, adored, never ignored”. Must be an even more of an annoying saying to many people, simply because it is true.

Ross. Funniest comment I read today, cheers.

Red Paul. Never met a fan with your view of football, but I am an old git, and each to their own.

John, Dublin. I am likewise delighted to see Carrick do well, but with the following two caveats on how much I know about football. 1) For the first couple of seasons he played for United I thought he was a bit crap. 2) Was delighted Ole did well at Molde so that one day he would be appointed United’s manager.

Graham Simon’s. Just ignore them. Not sure why Arsenal fans get so wound up about them being accused of over celebrating.

ANON. When Wout, misses a chance I think “hey that is our Burnley striker”. But his hard work creates so much space for other players. I would bet (and not checked) for every big chance he misses he creates 3.14159 big chances for other players. And in current form if that player is Rashford then xg = 0.9.

Apologies to anyone not included.
Cheers Ged Biglin