RECOVERING Antonio Conte will be “involved 100 per cent” in key Tottenham decisions in the Premier League clash with West Ham – despite being 570 miles away!
Assistant coach Cristian Stellini will be on the touchline on Sunday for this London derby while absent Conte is back home in Turin resting up after gallbladder surgery.
Conte, 53, managed Spurs in their Champions League defeat in Milan last Tuesday but has remained in Italy after realising he had rushed back too soon after the emergency op.
SunSport understands Spurs are exploring all options for Conte to communicate with the squad – perhaps even some form of video link in the dressing room.
Stellini says all-consuming manager Conte will return only when he is fully fit but the pair have been speaking non-stop in the build-up about tactics and logistics.
The 47-year-old said: “It’s not like last time when we had Antonio on the bed to rest immediately after the surgery.
“It’s a different time, Antonio is involved 100 per cent. Probably we have some communication with him better than the last time.
“Antonio’s feeling was that maybe he underestimated the procedure after the surgery.
“Coming close to the game, the stress and the tension he lives normally before a game creates some problem.
“He needs to take it easy again. He’ll come back soon but not like he had hoped.
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“My phone is on 24 hours a day. We have a call every day. Probably three times a day and every time he wants to come back.
“Health is more important than football – this is the reason why the club, the doctors decided to take these responsibilities and leave Antonio in Italy after the last game.
“It was a surgery with emergency. The inflammation was big and maybe they underestimated this situation.
“He needs time to be 100% and Antonio not at 100% is not Antonio. That creates stress over stress. And this is dangerous after surgery like that.
“When Antonio is 100%, he’ll come back and not one day before. We made a mistake before and we don’t want to repeat this.
“People around Antonio like our doctor, the doctor that did the surgery, his wife and his family, to force him.
“After the Milan game, I felt sad because maybe I didn’t push enough to the team this decision before.
“I felt responsible because Antonio’s pain continued under stress. I don’t want to feel like this again.”
Substitute boss Stellini is becoming a cult hero among Spurs fans and he has won all FIVE of the matches when he had been Conte’s stand-in.
It happened three times during Inter Milan’s 2020-21 Serie A title triumph and Stellini oversaw Spurs’ Champions League win over Marseille in November – Conte was suspended – and this month’s victory over Manchester City.
Asked how it felt to be the main man, Juventus and Genoa defender Stellini said: “It’s a bit strange for me because normally the assistant coach works behind the spotlight.
“It’s a big responsibility and I feel this but it’s not the first day I’m here.
“When I see the players and the team during the training, I feel we are capable to win every game and to progress in the Champions League.
“I sleep well. I have the team and I follow them every day and this gives me the feeling to be confident.”