SOUTHAMTPON, March 19 — Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte tore into his “selfish” players, saying they “didn’t want to play under pressure” after they squandered a chance to go third in the Premier League with a 3-3 draw Saturday away to bottom-of-the-table Southampton.
Spurs were on course to secure an important win in their quest for Champions League qualification when Ivan Perisic scored in the 74th minute after earlier goals by Pedro Porro and Harry Kane.
The visitors led 3-1 at that stage, after Che Adams had cancelled out Porro’s opener.
But the Saints hit back, with Theo Walcott cutting the deficit in the 77th minute before James Ward-Prowse’s stoppage-time penalty extended Spurs’ winless run on the road to five matches.
Tottenham’s recent defeats by AC Milan and Sheffield United saw them exit the Champions League and FA Cup respectively to ensure the club have now gone 15 years without a major trophy.
Conte was in no mood to spare his squad’s feelings during a 10-minute tirade at St Mary’s, with Tottenham now just two points ahead of Newcastle, who have two games in hand, in the race for the fourth and final Champions League place.
“We are 11 players that go into the pitch. I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart (in),” he said.
“Why? Because they are used to it here, they are used to it. They don’t play for something important yeah. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress.
“It is easy in this way. Tottenham’s story is this. Twenty years there is the owner and they never won something but why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stays here. I have seen the managers that Tottenham had on the bench.”
But the 53-year-old Italian, previously in charge of Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan, as well as the Italy national team, did express sympathy for Spurs’ long-suffering supporters.
“Until now try to hide the situation but now, no because I repeat, I don’t want to see what I have seen today because this is unacceptable and also unacceptable for the fans,” he added.
“They follow us, pay for their ticket and to see the team another time, to have this type of performance is unacceptable.”
Tottenham’s win over Nottingham Forest last week had been something of a morale boost, even if Conte’s future remained uncertain given his contract expires after the end of the season.
But the manager insisted speculation over his position was simply another “alibi” for an under-performing team.
“I see only 11 players that play for themselves,” he said.
“There are 10 games to go and some people think we can fight. Fight for what with this spirit, this attitude, this commitment? What? For seventh, eighth, 10th place? I am not used to this position.
“I’m really upset and everyone has to take their responsibility. Not only the club, the manager and the staff, the players have to be involved in this situation because it is time to change this situation if Tottenham want to change.
“If they want to continue in this way, they can change the manager, a lot of managers, but the situation cannot change. Believe me.” — AFP