By Tim Harrison
The worst kept secret in football was let out of bag this week – that Bryan Ferry lookalike Antonio Conte is Chelsea’s new first team head coach.
He will fly out to the United States with the squad for three pre-season friendlies against Liverpool, Real Madrid and AC Milan, after taking Italy as far as he can in this summer’s Euros.
Meanwhile Guus Hiddink, completing another superb job as emergency manager, attempts to extend his 15-match unbeaten league run with a visit to Swansea.
Youngsters are being given a chance to shine in the last seven games, and to impress Conte from afar.
Last weekend’s 4-0 win at Villa Park said more about the state of Aston Villa than anything, but Chelsea kept focus despite distractions (home fans' protests, random booing etc).
Defender Matt Miazga made his debut, performing the equivalent of scoring on his debut by keeping a clean sheet. He was sturdy and solid in John Terry’s position, alongside Branislav Ivanovic. It was also a chance for striker Pato to make the most of his hour as sub. He scored from the spot while Pedro bagged a brace.
With Pedro and Pato’s current form, fans are going potto.
They'll soon be reporting Chelsea games in Debrett's. Not only did Ruben Loftus-Cheek score his first goal for the Blues, but youth teamer Jake Clarke-Salter also played. Not since Peter Rhodes-Brown wore royal blue have Chelsea teamsheets looked so posh.
Hiddink made a telling post-match remark at Villa Park.
“When you have an academy like Chelsea has for a long time… you must give players the chance to step up.”
Note the 'long time'. He knows the Blues have talked the talked when it comes to developing youth, before managing a mumbled stumble.
Conte becomes Chelsea’s fifth Italian manager. In his three years at Juve he lost only two home games. Fans will want more of the same.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.