Chelsea boss Antonio Conte: My father wants to see my passion in every game
LONDON -- Antonio Conte revealed that his father reminded him to always show "the right anger" on the touchline after watching Chelsea's limp performance in a 4-1 loss against Watford at Vicarage Road earlier this month.
Watford scored three times in the final six minutes as 10-man Chelsea capitulated and Conte cut a dejected figure on the touchline, displaying none of the relentless energy and passion that has characterised his presence in the technical area since arriving at Stamford Bridge.
That defeat left Conte's job security in question, but wins over West Brom and Hull City improved the mood and in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16 first leg, both the Blues and their head coach appeared rejuvenated.
Speaking in a news conference on Friday, Conte said that his family always encourage his touchline histrionics. "They start to be worried when they don't see me very active [during the match], because it means I'm not happy," he admitted. "They don't recognise me.
"My father watched the game against Watford and said, 'I didn't see you with the right anger, with the right passion. You finished the game with your voice [intact] -- it's not for you, this'.
"You must have passion in every game, if you play against Barcelona or with a low team. It doesn't matter. Honestly I don't think against Watford my passion was less. For sure it was a strange night for everyone, but I don't think my passion was less.
"Maybe in the future when I become older, then for sure I have to try to stay more calm and be more relaxed in the game. But I think also this is my strength, to stay on the touchline and push my players, push myself."
Conte credits his father, Cosimino, for imbuing him with a love for football during the time they spent together at amateur side Juventina Lecce.
"He was the owner, he was the coach, he was the kitman [at Juventina]," a smiling Conte said of his father. "I spent my life from the start on the pitch to follow the dream of my father. For this reason I think I have to thank him for the passion I have for this sport. I started very young [to love the game]."
All eyes will be drawn to the Old Trafford touchline when Chelsea take on Manchester United on Sunday, as Conte comes face to face with Jose Mourinho for the first time since calling the Portuguese a "little man" and a "fake" as tensions between the two men escalated publicly last month.
Conte, however, is adamant that Mourinho will not be the focus of his attention once the match kicks off.
"In that moment I'm alone and I don't see what happens on the other bench or what the other manager does," he insisted. "In that moment there is the pitch, my players, the game. I don't see what happens [anywhere else]. This is great for me."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.