An alarm shrills in a Premier Inn near Blackburn and Antonio Conte rolls over to clumsily slap it to silence.
“F**k that,” he mumbles, and goes back to sleep.
Hours later his wife, Elisabetta Muscarello, flies from the bed giving it her finest Hugh Grant when-he’s-late-from-Four-Weddings-and-a-Funeral impersonation. Upon hearing a third “f**k, f**kity-f**k,” Chelsea’s Italian gaffer rouses gently and rubs his eyes, wondering why the F-bomb is being dropped so much.
There’s good reason: Antonio Conte is a very late man and he needs to wake up. “Bugger,” he mutters, with Mrs Muscarello thrusting a clock into his face.
But, for all the profanity, he doesn’t seem to rush. Ambling about his room, he makes scalding-hot coffee with a mini-kettle and disposable sachet and nibbles away at a miniature biscotti.
‘I wonder what the lads are up to now,’ thinks the first man who ought to know. Because while Conte was occupied with enjoying a lay-in, coffee, and a delightfully crunchy biscuit, his Chelsea side had been preparing for Thursday’s match against Burnley.
He shuffles into the shower, brushes his hair before putting it on and slides into some flip-flops. Sighing, he heads for the door. A busy day awaits. “Tony,” his wife calls as he turns to face her, “don’t be long.”
“I won’t, dear, it’s just the room service line doesn’t work in this dump. Won’t be a minute.”
Conte returns moments later with a top-up bowl of biscotti and a wicker basket of fruit. Having placed both containers on the bedside table, he reaches for his phone and taps out a text: ‘Pick team. Don’t care who. C u 2nite.’
Angelo Alessio, the Blues’ assistant coach, responds straight away. ‘U lazy prick. Do u not care anymore?’. Upon seeing this, Conte flings his head back, clutching his hair, and lets out a raucous laugh.
“Breakfast finished at 11, darling, so I just got some snacks. You were right, we got up too late this morning.”
A quiet ‘f**k’ comes from Mrs Muscarello’s half of the room. “Will you be going to work today, Tony?”
“I have to go and stand at the side of the pitch again for a bit tonight, but it shouldn’t be too stressful; anything that goes wrong isn’t my fault anymore. You been looking at places in other cities? Found anywhere nice?”
The following hour is spent with iPad-related quality time, Conte managing to take in four funny cat videos, a rip roaring lol-a-minute with Instagram memes, and a new high score on Doodle Jump.
Meanwhile, over at Cobham the Chelsea boys had finished their morning’s session of light training and were grouping together for a low-fat, slow-burning energy boost. Conte’s seat at the table remained empty and so a bowl of tagliatelle went disappointingly cold.
Eventually, however, the time comes when the boss cannot avoid his most basic duties any longer and is forced to call for a cab to Turf Moor. En route, he dives into a Drive Thru and picks up a quick Big Mac meal. Missing out on those low-fat pastas has its downfalls.
Stepping out of the cab, Conte passes his belongings to a waiting doorman and lifts his arms. From almost nowhere, a small gaggle of stewards hoist him onto their shoulders and carry him to his seat. The gaffer does nothing for himself these days. Why would he?
Winking at a raging Roman Abramovich as he glides by on his Hi-Vis chariot – the billionaire rendered powerless in the face of complete disinterest with a month to go in the season – Conte leans back gently and beams.
It’s an easy life for a gaffer who’s lost all care for his club.
Finally nestling into his seat in the dugout, the Italian yawns and begins to shut his eyes. A small child with a brand new scarf, full kit, and literally no worries in the world watches him enviously. ‘What an easy life you have’, thinks the child.