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PETER CROUCH: Antonio Conte is not as tough as we think in the dressing room, and that’s huge

It’s that time of year again: looting season. It’s no wonder that a quarter of the Premier League have already killed their coaches and another reminder that football, fierce as ever, leaves no room for excitement.

Mark Hughes was the last man I saw at the start and unfortunately all of us on the Stoke team basically had a front row seat. We had been in Coventry League Two that day and lost, a surprise FA Cup to go with our terrible run of form.

We were on the bus heading to Clayton Wood, the training ground, and we noticed that there were only two vehicles in the parking lot. Whose were they? CEO Tony Scholes and owner Peter Coates. Ah, this doesn’t look good.

Antonio Conte was in charge of Spurs on their return to the Premier League on Sunday

Antonio Conte was in charge of Spurs on their return to the Premier League on Sunday

His first game at Everton saw Tottenham look solid defensively but limited in attack.

His first game at Everton saw Tottenham look solid defensively but limited in attack.

His first game at Everton saw Tottenham look solid defensively but limited in attack.

The boys looked at each other in the car. They were getting up by eight at night and you knew it.

They might as well have hung a big sign at the entrance that said, “You’re fired.” The club announced the firing of Mark that night and we were demoted a few months later.

Although you feel sympathy for any coach, it is incredible how accustomed players get used to. It is part of that life now, some bad results and they disappear.

What always bothered me was the drastic change in attitude in the place when everyone has a clean slate.

Aston Villa fired Dean Smith two days after a loss at Southampton left them in 16th place

Aston Villa fired Dean Smith two days after a loss at Southampton left them in 16th place

Aston Villa fired Dean Smith two days after a loss at Southampton left them in 16th place

Villa's defeat at St Mary's turned out to be the final straw for Smith at the Midlands club.

Villa's defeat at St Mary's turned out to be the final straw for Smith at the Midlands club.

Villa’s defeat at St Mary’s turned out to be the final straw for Smith at the Midlands club.

It changes overnight. Things could have gotten pretty stale and then everything instantly perks up. The training increases one or two levels. Those who probably haven’t had the best attitude and are suddenly doing all the right things.

Some players you’ve never seen arrive early to the building are the first to walk through the door or do extra work.

It’s amazing how that happens, isn’t it? You have to have certain standards all the time, you can’t just turn it off and on. Each training must be competitive, the players must give their all.

I’ve been to a lot of clubs where the attitudes have always been great, but there are some people who, when they’re not on the team, just call you on the phone.

He was in Stoke City when the club fired Mark Hughes in 2018 after a five-year stint.

He was in Stoke City when the club fired Mark Hughes in 2018 after a five-year stint.

He was in Stoke City when the club fired Mark Hughes in 2018 after a five-year stint.

But that’s why you see performances increasing and that’s what Tottenham, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Norwich are hoping for.

Watford too, who pulled the trigger first. I feel sorry for Dean Smith, who did a good job at Villa and on the surface that feels tough. Daniel Farke in Norwich is a little different: they have been miserable.

All those clubs caught in the grind will believe that there is such an opportunity for a little rebound now. People don’t last long anymore, whatever happens and it’s very difficult to get attached to someone.

Norwich City fired Daniel Farke after they posted their first win of the season on Saturday.

Norwich City fired Daniel Farke after they posted their first win of the season on Saturday.

Norwich City fired Daniel Farke after they posted their first win of the season on Saturday.

Steve Bruce was fired from Newcastle last month

Steve Bruce was fired from Newcastle last month

Xisco Muñoz was the first low board of directors of this season of the Premier League, in Watford

Xisco Muñoz was the first low board of directors of this season of the Premier League, in Watford

Steve Bruce (left) and Xisco Munoz lost their jobs, at Newcastle and Watford respectively.

You want good relationships, but why do you think so many clubs install revolving doors at their training grounds? They need them for managers. Look at Watford: keeping up with your managers is a full-time job.

I found him quite sad as a gamer. The worst was Graham Taylor, who signed me at Villa in 2002 and gave me my chance in the Premier League. I never really did it for him and the move came too early for me when I went there.

He really wasn’t ready for that level. I was heartbroken that I hadn’t produced properly for Graham, because he had so much faith in me at a young age. I remember texting the great man, thanking him for everything.

A lot of players don’t bother and I think there is a genuine and unsolvable problem with long player contracts.

They have agreements for three or four years and they know they are going to beat the manager.

They might be at the bank every week, being asked to do this and that, and they look at the boss thinking, ‘Well, you’re not going to be here much longer anyway. I’ll go out with this one if you don’t like me and wait for the next one. ‘ Undermine the manager.

Antonio Conte will not allow himself to be undermined, even if he has a huge job on his hands at Tottenham.

Nuno Espirito Santo was fired by Tottenham after losing to Manchester United

Nuno Espirito Santo was fired by Tottenham after losing to Manchester United

Nuno Espirito Santo was fired by Tottenham after losing to Manchester United

Conte has to be Daniel Levy’s now. Here’s a top-notch coach, winner of five league titles in England and Italy, who still has that fire inside him.

If this doesn’t work one more time, players need to seriously examine themselves. It all comes down to asking if the team is good enough and if the attitude is right. Let’s find out.

Although he did not register a shot on goal, he was a good defensive start at Everton.

Although Conte seems like a tough coach, he kept the locker room tight at Chelsea

Although Conte seems like a tough coach, he kept the locker room tight at Chelsea

Although Conte seems like a tough coach, he kept the locker room tight at Chelsea

His first match against Vitesse was a carnage and showed what a great job he has to do.

His first match against Vitesse was a carnage and showed what a great job he has to do.

His first match against Vitesse was a carnage and showed what a great job he has to do.

I was at the Vitesse Arnhem game on Thursday night and, my word, you have things to correct. Butcher shop. You could see that the pace was up, they flew off the blocks, but they took their foot off the gas and it was the same Tottenham as always.

Poor defensively, lacking energy. They wrote again. It will take time to implement your style and you need fit players to pull it off.

All that is being said is that Conte is a grafter, the famous double sessions, but I feel like he has an empathetic side that draws players in.

It is not as hard as we think and that is something huge, because that Chelsea dressing room that I had seemed strong to me.

The trick is to keep it that way for as long as possible.

SUPPORT ARTETA IS PAID

Speaking of the precarious nature of football management, Arsenal’s credit for sticking with Mikel Arteta.

We forget how difficult that period was for him at the beginning of the season. Everyone said he had to go, but it seems he turned it around.

Something has changed that you can see in their play patterns. They are now undefeated since August, have won their last three and are heading in the right direction.

After a difficult start, Arsenal are undefeated since August under the leadership of Mikel Arteta

After a difficult start, Arsenal are undefeated since August under the leadership of Mikel Arteta

After a difficult start, Arsenal are undefeated since August under the leadership of Mikel Arteta

It feels like something has clicked there. Take Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for example. I see him leading from the front with his energy. He’s acting like a captain, who hadn’t been there. That kind of thing inspires the rest.

They all had great energy against Watford, something we haven’t always seen. The goal, playing when they should have returned possession, was certainly old-school.

That reminded me of Nwankwo Kanu’s moment against Sheffield United in the 1990s, when he helped Marc Overmars instead of returning the ball to the goalkeeper after injury. Arsenal offered to play that FA Cup tie again out of embarrassment. There is no chance of that happening this time!

NEW PREMIER LEAGUE BALLS

Did you see the new yellow Premier League ball, given that it sold out for the first time over the weekend? It may be my age, but I am not. Too much is happening.

Paddy Power tweeted a photo of him in the week and you never know with them so I asked him if he was a rope. Someone replied, ‘no, you inflate it.’

Fair play, I loved it.

The new Premier League ball has too much at stake with its multi-colored design

The new Premier League ball has too much at stake with its multi-colored design

The new Premier League ball has too much at stake with its multi-colored design

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