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Bullish Frank Lampard Lifts Chelsea Mood but Knows He Will Get No Favours

Bullish Frank Lampard Lifts Chelsea Mood but Knows He Will Get No Favours

Friday, 12 July, 2019 - 06:00
Frank Lampard is back at familiar surroundings in west London. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
London - Dominic Fifield
The buzzword was realism, a theme maintained whether Frank Lampard was raising the new Chelsea shirt to the pop of the flashbulbs in a cluttered suite high in Stamford Bridge’s west stand, or had retired to the directors’ lounge for a marginally more intimate assessment of what awaits as the club’s head coach. And yet, even with the star player sold and a transfer ban blocking significant incoming business, it rapidly became clear the new man is not one to flee from expectation.

A sense of positivity permeated Lampard’s first public outing in the job. Yes, his arrival could be considered surprising given his coaching experience does not extend beyond a season finishing sixth in the Championship with Derby. Sure, the particular circumstances he inherits will make chasing down Manchester City – 26 points away last season – and Liverpool feel distinctly daunting.

Yet a head coach who witnessed Roman Abramovich dismiss seven managers over the 11 years he played under his ownership is not going to be kidded into thinking too much has changed. He will just trust in his ability to justify the faith placed in him. “The reality is the owner has won 16 trophies in 16 years, enjoyed huge success, and runs it as he sees best, and his desire has always been the best for the club,” said Lampard, 41. “He has chosen me on that premise. I played here for many years and know there are standards. There is a baseline of being competitive. That expectation, quite rightly, will remain.

“We know about the transfer ban. We know City and Liverpool pulled away slightly last year, but we should never stop trying to be up there. As Chelsea, we should be. Things have slightly aligned for all this to happen: the previous manager [Maurizio Sarri] leaving, the situation at the club ... but I was ambitious as a player and I wanted to manage at the top. Maybe this is a bold move but I am willing to take that risk. I have belief in myself.”

There may be awkward times to endure when the true depth of a squad Lampard insists remains strong is exposed, but this club’s soul already feels restored. That was the immediate Lampard effect. He may have been rather guarded in some of his responses, wary of offering dangerous soundbites and warding off potential headlines, but it was still so refreshing, and not just because the man he had replaced used to smoke 60 a day. The fanbase is instantly appeased and enthused.

Those in the front row of the audience – the director, Marina Granovskaia, the chairman, Bruce Buck, and the recently appointed technical and performance adviser, Petr Cech – could bask in the slick positivity that has greeted their appointment. Here, after all, was a man who had not felt the need to call any of those managers under whom he had learned so much as a player before deciding whether this was a sensible move. He had apparently not even spoken first‑hand to Abramovich, although that call will come.

“I have spoken with Marina in depth because it is about how I work with the club and how they want me to work with them,” he said. “I will be speaking with the owner in pre-season, but one of the benefits of me being here is I don’t need huge conversations with him. The conversations I had with Marina were exactly as I expected: we want to be competitive; yes, we want to bring young players through, but that is something I should look to do anyway; and we want to win.

“I felt that from the minute the owner came in years and years ago. I remember him landing at Harlington [the training ground at the time], coming and speaking to us and, for me, the landscape of the club changed in an instant because of his desire for excellence, whether in training facilities or on the pitch. Those levels have not dropped since. When I do speak to the owner I expect him to demand the same things I demand of myself and the team.”

His team will be “aggressive with plenty of energy, bravery on the ball, moving it quickly”, emulating the standard City and Liverpool have set. There will be opportunities for academy graduates to prove they merit greater involvement. “But they have to show they are good enough because we can’t lower our levels too much. This is Chelsea, so I’m not going to be doing young boys favours and put them in the team. They need to prove themselves.

“We talk about losing Eden Hazard, one of the greatest players in the world, but it is still a hugely talented team. We haven’t been decimated, we still have a very strong squad.

“My job is now to push on and be successful. The Chelsea job should never be a home run. It should have people lining up down the King’s Road, [candidates] of great stature. I will be judged on what I do. It’s up to me to show they made the right decision.”

The Guardian Sport

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