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ruthless Antonio Conte's frequent use of the word 'kill' highlights how much he needs to win

SERIAL WINNER WILL GET NASTY TO CHANGE SERIAL UNDERACHIEVERS

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Tottenham manager Antonio Conte saw his side held by Everton (Martin Rickett/PA).

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte saw his side held by Everton (Martin Rickett/PA).

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte saw his side held by Everton (Martin Rickett/PA).

THE word 'kill' may seem a little excessive when discussing a sporting ambition, but Tottenham's players will need to embrace it if they want to survive under new boss Antonio Conte.

Conte's first Premier League game as Spurs boss ended in a 0-0 draw at Everton on Sunday, as Chelsea's title-winning manager from four years ago returned to the top tier of English football after his hasty appointment as Nuno Espirito Santo's replacement last Tuesday.

And if the players who are getting used to calling Conte boss think his reputation as a no-nonsense operator has been overblown by the media, they are in for a shock.

Conte's long-standing reputation for being ruthless, demanding and unforgiving are not misplaced, as he sets standards that will stretch the boundaries of most who work under him - and only those willing to follow him will survive.

"I always talk about education and respect. I demand that. I give that, but I demand it," declared Conte in an interview with Thierry Henry for Sky Sports during his time as Chelsea manager.

"If someone doesn't have a good attitude during a training session, or good behaviour in different circumstances I prefer to kill him. From my experience as a footballer, if a manager closes his eyes, he doesn't want to see the bad situation, you lose the changing room.

"For me, it is normal to show my passion and I want the players to share this passion.

"Always in my life, I hate to lose. I suffer a lot after a defeat and my players need to feel this pain as well. We have to avoid defeats."

There speaks a winner and also a man who will not see what he likes in a dressing room loaded with players who have thrown three managers under the bus in the last two years.

The second anniversary of Mauricio Pochettino's sacking as Tottenham manager will be marked later this month, with the most successful manager in the club's recent history not helped by players who turned off their talent tap in his final few months at the helm.

Those faltering troops were equally unresponsive when Jose Mourinho was appointed as their leader, as a dressing room with a reputation for falling short when pressure is applied living up to their billing as one of the game's great modern winners could not get a tune from stars names who failed to shine.

The same fate then befell Santo (inset), who was quickly dispensed with after just ten Premier League matches in charge when it became clear that Conte, the club's first choice manager to take over last summer, was available after all.

There have been several versions of the reasons why Conte's talks with Tottenham broke down when it seemed he was about to be appointed back in June, but the most credible suggests he was not being offered the kind of control he has now been given by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

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Alongside Tottenham's Sporting Director Fabio Paratici, Conte has been assured that he will call the shots in the transfer market to a level he would not get at most top European clubs.

The close bond he has with fellow Italian Paratici from their time working successfully together at Juventus suggests their relationship has a strong potential to last and there is also a suggestion that Levy is finally taking a back seat from football matters at the club after 20 years of unhelpful meddling.

If Levy has finally accepted the moment has come for him to focus on commercial deals and let football people deal with football, Spurs fans can revel in the anticipation of being led into a new era by a man who has yet to fail on any step of his coaching journey, winning five domestic league titles in the last nine years.

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ENFIELD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Antonio Conte, head coach of Tottenham Hotspur talks to the press during the Tottenham Hotspur press conference at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on November 05, 2021 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

ENFIELD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Antonio Conte, head coach of Tottenham Hotspur talks to the press during the Tottenham Hotspur press conference at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on November 05, 2021 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

ENFIELD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Antonio Conte, head coach of Tottenham Hotspur talks to the press during the Tottenham Hotspur press conference at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on November 05, 2021 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

It's a sparkling record that highlights why Manchester United were heavily linked with Conte when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure as manager appeared to be edging towards an end last month.

In the end, Tottenham unexpectedly won the race to recruit Conte and while this club have specialised in false dawns since their last successful era, this startling managerial appointment offers the potential for them to go to a level only Pochettino has threaten to take them to in the last four decades.

Conte (left) has not gone to Spurs to fail and reputations will count for nothing if Conte doesn't get what he wants from players quickly.

Harry Kane may have decided his time is up at Tottenham after pushing to secure a move to Manchester City last summer, yet his attitude since that effort failed to secure his release has tarnished his reputation among Spurs fans.

Kane was blatantly under performing under Nuno this season and if does that with Conte as his manager, the England captain will be banished to the stands and won't play.

The same goes for a flaky operator such as Dele Alli, who has now fallen out of favour under three successive Spurs managers and was famously christened by Mourinho as a 's*** trainer' by Mourinho during his time at the club.

Conte will only work with players who share his vision and he confirmed as much by using his favoured brutal term once more in his first press conference as Spurs boss following their UEFA Conference League win against Vitesse on Thursday night. I want a stable team and when there's a possibility to kill opponent, you must kill," he declared on a night when his side took an early three goals lead before stumbling to a 3-2 victory.

"If you improve every single player, it means the whole team becomes stronger. We need to do this. We need to find time to work, but after the game at Everton we have the international break. If I want to see on the pitch my team, I know I need time, but at the same time, that time is not there."

Therein could lie Conte's problem, with the lack of time he will have with the Spurs players denying him the platform he craves to influence them. Conte broke one of his own rules when he agreed to take over Tottenham mid-season, as he holds great stock in bedding down his ideas during a pre-season programme that features daily double training sessions and analytical methods that leave little to the imagination.

He will put players on strict diets, give them dressing downs in front of their team-mates and if they don't follow his way, they will be removed for the club in double quick time.

This is a manager who comes with a tried and tested method for success and unlike Mourinho, for whom he has been compared at times in the English media, Conte's approach has produced relentless success in recent years at a time when Jose has been fading.

Only time will tell if Spurs can be moulded into Conte's way and if succeeds at a club that specialises in under-achieving, it will go down as the greatest achievement of his trophy laden story.

ANTONIO CONTE FACTFILE

Born: July 31 1969

As a player: Lecce (1985-1991)

Juventus (1991-2004)

Honours with Juventus: Serie A titles (1994/95, 1996/97, 1997/98, 2001/02, 2002/03)

Italian Cup (1994/95)

Champions League (1995/96)

UEFA Cup (1992/93)

With Italy: 20 caps

World Cup runner-up (1994)

European championship runners-up (2000)

As a manager: Bari (2007-09), Atalanta (2009-10), Siena (2010-11), Juventus (2011-2014), Italy (2014-present)

Honours with Bari: Serie B (2008/09)

With Juventus: Serie A title (2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14)

With Chelsea: Premier League title (2016/17), FA Cup (2017/18)

With Inter Milan: Serie A (2020/21)

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