Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised the club’s fans for sticking by him, after a comfortable win over West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge eased the pressure on the Italian.
Conte’s Chelsea future had been placed under the harshest spotlight after successive heavy losses to Bournemouth and Watford – but a victory that took them back up to fourth in the Premier League will ease those concerns for now.
Conte’s name was sung throughout by the home fans, in an obvious show of support.
“I have to thank the fans because they showed me great support,” he said. “They are reading speculation and rumours on me and I’m grateful to the fans.
“It means they understand my passion, my will to defend this colour, this shirt, this badge.
I have to live with this pressure until the end of the season. I don’t want this pressure to weigh on the shoulders of my players.”
Conte needed the brilliance of Eden Hazard to settle early uncertainty on the pitch and in the stands.
Hazard exchanged passes with Olivier Giroud before giving Chelsea a first-half lead and, after Victor Moses slid home a second after the break, sealed victory with a powerful drive in the 71st minute.
The win took the Blues a point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham.
West Brom, meanwhile, are seven points from safety after one win in 25 league games.
They were hampered by losing loan signing Daniel Sturridge to injury inside three minutes. Substitute Jay Rodriguez wasted an opportunity to put them ahead when clean through, and Salomon Rondon and Jonny Evans also missed chances with the game in the balance.
“Losing Daniel Sturridge after three minutes was a blow in itself,” said Pardew. “That was probably a bigger blow than the result.
“He felt his hamstring after a 60m sprint in the first moments of the game. We’ll have to nurse him.”
For Conte, however, it was a satisfying night and the pressure – temporarily at least – is off.
Conte walked out to take his place in the technical area with his future as Chelsea manager shrouded in uncertainty.
The Italian insists he wants to see out the remainder of his contract – which runs until 2019 – and the club have not shown any inclination they want to bring his reign to an end just months after he won the Premier League in his first season.
Yet there is the assumption the clock is running down to the end of the season and the conclusion of Conte’s Chelsea career – perhaps even sooner had another poor result followed the heavy losses to Bournemouth and Watford.
This was a fixture with the capacity to be troublesome, but Conte got what he wanted – and so did Chelsea’s fans.
If supporter reaction can be used as an accurate measure, Conte retains huge backing among the fanbase.
His name echoed around Stamford Bridge inside the first minute, acknowledged politely by the Italian, and the noisy backing was repeated at regular intervals throughout a routine victory.
There was certainly no shortage of touchline commitment from Conte, urging his players with actions and words throughout, boiling over at a tackle from behind on Giroud from Evans and even finding time to give substitute Alvaro Morata some very boisterous advice.
But he will know he needs to keep winning, with an FA Cup fifth-round tie at home to Hull City, a Champions League last-16 meeting with Barcelona, and a visit to top-four rivals Manchester United to come.
And Chelsea fans will know owner Roman Abramovich does not make managerial decisions based on the popular vote, rather with a ruthless, hard-headed approach that has ensured continued success.
For now, though, the mood has lifted.