Conte 'perfect' for Tottenham

Former striker Sheringham believes Italian's resilience can stop team from being 'Spursy'

It is not quite accepted as part of the English language yet - even though a spoof article in 2016 claimed that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary - but the word "Spursy" is already part of many English Premier League fans' lexicon.

Generally, it means to have success within reach only to ultimately throw it away, and stems from Tottenham Hotspur being guilty of doing so on multiple occasions over the last two decades.

Over a breakfast chat at the Fairmont Singapore on Friday, however, former Spurs skipper and striker Teddy Sheringham believes that the club have what it takes to shed that tag and win their first piece of silverware since the 2008 League Cup.

The key ingredient, the 56-year-old said, is Italian manager Antonio Conte. "I think Conte is the perfect manager for Tottenham at this moment in time," said Sheringham, who scored 124 goals in 277 games for Spurs over two spells from 1992 to 2003.

"He might not be the most 'flaired' manager but Tottenham need the resilience, that determination in their team to stop them being 'Spursy'.

"If they're gonna win something they need that, and I think Conte is the perfect manager. There's no doubt about that.

"They've needed something over the last 10 to 20 years and hopefully he's the right man to change things around."

The 53-year-old Conte, who won five domestic league titles in 10 years at Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan and at Premier League side Chelsea, was appointed Spurs boss in November 2021.

He made an immediate impact, becoming the first manager at the club to go unbeaten in their first eight games, and steered them to Champions League qualification.

His teams are known not just for their ability to attack but also for their defensive prowess.

For instance, in the 2020-21 season at Serie A champions Inter, the Nerazzuri were the strongest team defensively, conceding just 35 goals, six fewer than their closest rivals Milan, while scoring 89.

Before the start of this term, the Italian was backed in the transfer market by notoriously tight-fisted Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who spent about £150 million (S$239.2 million) to bring in the likes of defender Cristian Romero, wing-back Ivan Perisic, midfielder Yves Bissouma and attacker Richarlison.

But Sheringham, who is in Singapore at the invitation of Spurs' main sponsor AIA, believes the team are still one player short of being a completely solid outfit.

"Probably that midfield general that you know, like a Roy Keane in midfield," he said.

"If they could get Declan Rice from West Ham... that would make them a top team."

He cited 23-year-old England mainstay Rice's quality on the pitch, his professionalism as well as his mindset off it, which would help "change the whole philosophy" of a team struggling to reach success, like Spurs.

Sheringham is already looking forward to what he expects to be a "fantastic" derby between Spurs and north London rivals Arsenal next Saturday, and said while the latter "probably have more flair", his former side have "a newfound resilience".

"They're both on a high. It's very unusual that both teams are in the top three and firing on all cylinders. I think anyone can win it," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline Conte 'perfect' for Tottenham. Subscribe