Saturday, 9 May 2009

Conte celebrates Bari's return

Bari coach Antonio Conte is celebrating his side's "unexpected" promotion to Serie A after eight years away from the Italian top flight.

Antonio ConteThe Galletti's promotion was confirmed on Friday evening without having to kick a ball, as third-placed Livorno lost 1-0 at home to Triestina, meaning the Serie B leaders cannot drop out of the automatic promotion places.

"We started out with the primary objective of getting people back into the San Nicola stands and return the enthusiasm to a city disappointed by so many bitter campaigns," the 39-year-old Conte explained.

"It is such a great feeling for us and the whole city of Bari. I am so happy for the lads."

The Puglian outfit have been sitting at the top of the table since the end of February and the celebrations exploded in the city when the final whistle went at Livorno's Stadio Armando Picchi tonight.

Conte, who was speaking from the team's hotel ahead of Saturday's match at Piacenza, struggled to describe the great achievement.

"At the beginning of the season I would have accepted a place in the play-offs. As the weeks went by, we realised that we could aim our ambitions even higher.

"Now we will enjoy the celebrations because it has been an extraordinary achievement. I don't know if we are living a dream or on candid camera.

"We deserved this promotion, more than any other team, and we got there by playing good football."

Bari last tasted Serie A football in 2001, when a young Antonio Cassano had just broken into the first team.

In the eight years since, the club have struggled and played to often empty stadiums, as fans protested by demanding owner Vincenzo Matarrese – who has been at the helm since 1983 – sell up to new investors.

This season had begun with meagre targets of mid-table safety, but Conte saw the turning point in the January transfer window.

"That was very important, as when we realised that we could go after a more ambitious goal, we brought in Stefano Guberti, Vitalii Kutuzov and Davide Lanzafame. From that moment on, we never looked back.

"There were many decisive moments, although perhaps the 3-1 victory away to Sassuolo stands out, as the way we dominated gave us the belief we were on the right track."

The 20 goals from Brazilian forward Paulo Vitor Barreto and the fact Bari have the tightest defence so far this season have helped towards securing promotion.

In recent weeks, Conte has been linked in the Italian media with several top clubs including his former team Juventus.

"My future? It's not time to talk about that now," he concluded.

Parma could secure an immediate return to the top flight if they beat Pisa at home on Saturday and both Brescia and Sassuolo fail to win their games.

[Week 39] - [Bari return] - [Antonio Conte] - [Vincenzo Matarrese] - [Stefano Guberti]

Source: C4 Football Italia

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