HOMECOMING

Chelsea legend Frank Lampard is eager to make a triumphant first impression as he returns to the club as manager

INTERVIEW GRAHAM HUNTER

HERO

Chelsea fans needed no introduction to their new manager last month as the club unveiled the successor to Maurizio Sarri. The man given the Stamford Bridge reins was none other than the club’s record goalscorer, a stalwart servant for 13 years on the pitch and one of the finest midfielders of the modern age. ‘Super’ Frank Lampard conquered England and Europe with the Blues, but he faces a whole new challenge to prove himself as a coach. Having led Derby County to last season’s Championship play-off final in his debut campaign, the 41-year-old now begins an exciting new chapter with the chance to set the tone in the UEFA Super Cup. Lampard will be under the microscope like never before, but, as he says himself, “I feel ready.”

 

What did you learn over the past year about Frank Lampard the coach?

I learned a lot. I think as a manager you’ll continually learn because of the nature of the job: the detail there is, the variables that come along. I felt like in the year I had at Derby, there was a real desire to change the playing style and with that, we had to change personnel and try to bring the age down. It was a big challenge. I learned day by day, week by week. And I tried to find the balance of information that wouldn’t overcome the players in one go. I learned lots of things myself and from my staff, who I really rely on and trust, and I feel like I’m in a good position. It feels like I had almost three or four seasons in one. 

You’ve done it all yourself as a player and you have a lot of ideas, but do you feel you can teach that? 

You don’t know until you start the job. It’s easy for me to rely on my 21 years of playing. It’s different when you come to the other side. It’s quite easy sometimes to coach in your own head, but you have to actually wait for the right moment when you can have a moment of improvement. What I’m interested in is the detail behind the scenes, the one-on-one moments on the pitch, the moments sometimes off the pitch. Inexperience will always be thrown at me after one year in management and coming into the Chelsea job. I have no fear of that. I’m not scared of the inexperience at all. I feel ready, while at the same time being humble to the fact that I know I need to keep working. 

 

Having played with César Azpilicueta and David Luiz, how will you approach the job of coaching them?

They’re both hugely important. To deal with players I’ve played with is a bit of a

special case. I will take that head-on. I get on with the players you mentioned really well; professionally, of course, it becomes slightly different now. We have 25 to 30 players in pre-season, at least, and every one of them is different, every one of them thinks differently, has a different personality, works slightly differently. And my job is to try to get into that on the pitch and off the pitch.

“Intensity is many things. It’s not just physical, it’s also mental. It’s how you approach every day and every game”

How would you sum up your relationship with Chelsea?

It’s a defining thing in my life because I took Chelsea home with me the minute I joined the club. And for a boy travelling from east London as a West Ham fan growing up, that was a big deal. And then the experiences I had, for good or for bad. When I look back, I’m delighted at what I managed to achieve, or what we did as a group, except that we should have won more Premier League titles. If I’m truly honest, I feel for this club deeply. Whether it’s the fans who were on that journey with us, whether it was the players I played alongside, whether it’s staff who are still here or have moved on, it’s a special place for me. Hence why I want to do so well here. Of course, I want to do well for myself, I want to improve myself, but at the same time I want this club to be where it belongs.

Without selling your secrets, what is the playing style, strategy and philosophy you hope to introduce at Chelsea?

I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, because I’m big on the fact that only when you’re on the ground and working with the players can you really feel the way you want to go. I don’t want to be strapped in to one plan, one vision, one idea. What I want is a team that’s quite fluid and adaptable in the way we play. I want the players to be adaptable, so that as we move forward, we can evolve. It might be daily; it might be weekly. It might be with formations; it might be with mindset. I want to be very open to that, and I want my players to be open to that.

 

Intensity was a big part of your approach as a player. How important is it to you as a coach?

Intensity is everything for me. In a daily sense, how we train will be how we play. Intensity is many things. It’s not just physical, it’s also mental. It’s how you approach every day and every game. I think that will be defining because we have a hugely talented group of players – I know other teams do too, that’s why it’s so competitive in the Premier League, the Champions League etc. If you try to play the modern game without intensity, you’ve got no chance. And if you think you can train without intensity and play well, then you’ve got no chance. 

You finished on the losing side in both your UEFA Super Cup games. What lessons have you learned from that?

I had two great examples of a really important game that you don’t win in two different ways and it makes you more determined to win it. But the first thing we’ll do is certainly not have this hindsight of saying that we got shocked by anybody, because that would be my fault. If that’s the case, we need to be absolutely ready. It’s a cup that the club desperately wants to win. I’ve never won it; a lot of players in there have never won it, so we have to give it everything. 

With Chelsea having not won this competition since 1998, is there a real desire to lift the trophy?

Yeah, for sure. And, listen, no matter what happens, going up against a team with the quality of Liverpool in a final is as tense as finals can be. You can lose finals; they’re very tough. But what you cannot do is lose it on the premise that we weren’t prepared, or we didn’t have that hunger or desire or everything you need to try to win a game of this magnitude. Every player in there needs to be aware of the importance of the game to this club and we have to give everything, because it’s going to be tough. 

 

Are you excited to be testing yourself against Jürgen Klopp?

Yeah, I love the challenge of going up against a man that I have so much admiration for. I don’t know him, but there’s the character and personality we see from the outside, and you can see that his players relate to that. I think you see a man there who certainly knows how to get everything out of the players, the squad and the club. He’s managed to galvanise the club and go in a certain direction that has brought them great success. So for me to have the personal challenge as a manager to go up against him firstly is an honour, because to manage a club like Chelsea against a club like Liverpool, against a manager like Jürgen Klopp, it’s something I’m proud to do. And, secondly, it’s a challenge that I want to get right and I want to try to win.

When Frank Lampard first joined Chelsea from West Ham in 2001 (right), his potential was already evident. If anything, the prolific midfielder surpassed even those bright early expectations. The son of former Hammers defender Frank Lampard Sr, he made history at Stamford Bridge, surpassing Bobby Tambling as the club’s all-time leading scorer with 211 goals in 648

LEGACY

LAMPARD'S

games – outstanding given his position, and so many coming from his trademark late runs. Lampard’s box-to-box talents were integral to a golden period for Chelsea, in which he won the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League and 2012/13 UEFA Europa League, along with three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two English League Cups. A byword for consistency, he also played a record 164 consecutive league games between 2001 and 2005, eventually leaving west London as one of the club’s modern greats in 2014.

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