Tottenham boss Antonio Conte refused to be drawn on Tanguy Ndombele’s future after he was booed by home fans during the 3-1 FA Cup win over Morecambe.
The Frenchman, the club’s record signing, angered Spurs fans after he took an age to leave the field when substituted with his side 1-0 down with only 21 minutes remaining.
In an apparent act of defiance, Ndombele, who appeared to walk slower when the boos started, went straight down the tunnel so missed his team-mates scoring three goals in the final 16 minutes to survive a cup upset.
Anthony O’Connor had put the League One outfit on course for a famous victory in the first half but goals from Harry Winks, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane sent Conte’s side through to a fourth-round tie with Brighton.
Ndombele’s behaviour and future was the subject of Conte’s post-match press conference, but the Italian did not want to say too much.
Conte said of the fans’ reaction: “I was so focused on the game because we were losing 1-0. This type of situation, they are in football.
“You have to be good to try to change your opinion. If someone is disappointed with you. It’s normal.
“I was a player and it happened sometimes to me that someone was unhappy with my performance. This is our life. I repeat, it’s OK. We have to continue to work and try to be better next time.
“We have to know very well that if we perform well, the fans are happy.
“If you don’t perform well, the fans are not happy. This is football. If we think the fans have to be happy any time, if you win or lose, I think that’s not right.
“Me, for sure, when I don’t win, I’m not happy, I am upset and I think that is OK.”
Asked if he was disappointed in Ndombele’s slow trudge off the pitch, Conte chose to speak about his reasoning for the substitution: “I think during the game, you have to try the best solution to find something, especially if I’m seeing we’re losing 1-0 and then you have to try to change something, especially when you have on the bench players at the top level.
“In this case, I decided to give a bit of rest to Harry and also Lucas. At one point, when I’ve seen the situation we should change the situation, for sure.
“When you have this type of player on the bench, for sure, the expectation is to change the game.
“It’s not only for this game, it’s our life, the normal life of the coach. If the team is playing and then on the bench you turn your head and you can see top players then you change the game.”
Morecambe, 59 places below Spurs on the football ladder, can take pride in their effort, especially after manager Stephen Robinson was absent due to a positive coronavirus case.
Assistant manager Diarmuid O’Carroll, who was only promoted from a first-team coach role on Tuesday, said he had mixed feelings.
“We are coming to a fantastic facility like this, they look at us like little Morecambe, probably the lowest budget in League One,” he said.
“I think the system and the tactics the gaffer set out for the players made it a very frustrating afternoon for Tottenham, having to call on the big boys at the end.
“We are always frustrated to lose games, but we are picking holes in what is a very good performance for us for a club.
“We are perfectionists, we want to win every game, we are leading, individual mistakes in the goals, the boys will be disappointed. But I can’t fault them and I was proud to lead them out in the gaffer’s absence.
“I did enjoy it, I didn’t for the last 15 minutes when Kane and Moura are kicking it about.
“But for 75 minutes it is a fantastic day for me. I will remember it, it is a big day for me and for my family. It would be sweeter if we could have got the victory or pushed them to extra time.”