Antonio Conte revelled in the strength of his bond with Chelsea’s supporters after they showed their backing for the under-pressure manager during the 3-0 defeat of West Brom.
Speculation persists that the Italian has no future at Stamford Bridge, despite him inspiring his team to last season’s Premier League title and their latest victory taking them back into the top four.
Two goals from Eden Hazard and Victor Moses’ second-half finish secured all three points amid an improved performance that followed successive, damaging defeats by Bournemouth and Watford that increased the uncertainty surrounding Conte’s position.
In addition to taking Chelsea above rivals Tottenham and into fourth, their convincing display will also have encouraged their manager given they resume their Champions League campaign against Barcelona next week.
The three goals were followed by chants of support from the club’s fans for Conte, and the 48-year-old said: “I have to thank the fans. They showed me great support because they are reading speculation and rumours about me. I’m grateful to the fans for supporting me in this way.
“It means that, maybe in our 18 months together, they understand my passion and my will to defend these colours, this shirt, this badge.
“To feel this atmosphere around me is very important. It’s very important to feel that people appreciate my work here in Chelsea. For me it’s important.
“I repeat – me and the players are trying to do our best to give them the best satisfaction. Sometimes we can do this, sometimes not, but the will is always present.
“For our confidence, it was very important to get three points, to win and keep another clean sheet. Now we have to prepare another game in the FA Cup (on Friday at home to Hull).
“We want to go into the next round and then prepare for the Barcelona game, then (Manchester’s) United and City. Three massive games, three important games for us.”
Conte also handed new signing Olivier Giroud his full debut, but despite him suffering a head injury he expects the French striker to be fit to face Hull.
The boss said: “We must be pleased for Giroud’s performance. He needs to improve, to go into our idea of football, but to have a point of reference like Olivier is very important.”
Defeat means West Brom remain bottom of the Premier League, seven points adrift of safety and five shy of 19th-placed Stoke with only 11 games to play.
The fact they are increasingly likely to be relegated was worsened by the loss of Daniel Sturridge to a hamstring injury in only the fourth minute.
Manager Alan Pardew said: “We’ve got to hope Daniel’s injury isn’t too bad.
“He was distraught. The way he’s worked at our place has been of the highest order. He’s absolutely devastated because he wants this period to be a success.”
The Baggies are to heading to Spain for some warm-weather training, and Pardew added: “Some sun on our backs; a bit of resolve. The only people who are going to believe we can (survive) is ourselves. A bit of that, a bit of team building and a lot of hard work as well.”