Media Watch: Aston Villa manager praises Frank Lampard, Blues fans make epic journey to Baku, Celtic youngster hails impact of Damien Duff

In our look at the latest Chelsea-related news stories from the media, Aston Villa boss Dean Smith praises Chelsea legend Frank Lampard ahead of the Championship play-off final, two die-hard Blues fans make an epic trip to Azerbaijan for the Europa League final and Celtic wonderkid Karamoko Dembele has spoken about the impact that former Blue Damien Duff has had on his development.

These stories are samples pulled from external media sources. They do not represent the views or position of Chelsea Football Club.

Dean Smith praises Lampard

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has spoken highly of Frank Lampard, saying he is not surprised by the success the Chelsea legend has had since he took charge of Derby County at the start of the season.

Smith and Lampard will come face-to-face at Wembley next Monday when their teams meet in the Championship play-off final with a lucrative spot in next season’s Premier League at stake.

Speaking ahead of the clash, Smith spoke in glowing terms of the 40-year-old, who gave him a helping hand when he was manager of Brentford.

'I knew his old man, Frank Sr,' said Smith, as reported by the Daily Mail. 'I asked him if Frank would not mind coming in and doing a talk. He came in and did it for us.

'I like to get different people in to come and do talks. Frank was one of them. He was well received by the players.

'That was when he was doing a little bit of coaching at Chelsea. He speaks very well about the game, understands the game.'

While Derby is Lampard’s first position in football management, Smith believes that the former England midfielder has plenty to offer the game.

‘I think he has worked extremely hard to get where he is,’ Smith explained.

‘He has worked very hard to be at the top of his career as a player, worked hard as a coach too. He has done his badges. It does not surprise me he has done very well at Derby.’

Fans take scenic route to Baku

The difficulty and high cost of travelling from London to Baku may have dissuaded many fans from attending the Europa League final, but die-hard Chelsea supporters Jake Ralph and Kevin Cobb have decided to make an adventure of getting there to cheer on the Blues.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, the father and son pair revealed that they were making the long trek to Azerbaijan via a combination of planes, trains and taxis, covering a distance of 3,462 miles over the course of seven days.

They flew out from London to Istanbul on Tuesday and took a local flight to Ankara the following day before boarding a train on Thursday for a 24-hour journey to Kars in eastern Turkey.

From there, they planned to take a taxi to get across the border to Georgia before taking an overnight train from Tbilisi to Baku on Sunday for the final leg of their long journey.

'We wanted to make a bit of an adventure out of it, having visited Baku before using Thomas Cook and Chelsea,’ explained Ralph who watched the Blues’ 4-0 win over Qarabag in the Azeri capital 18 months ago.

‘Last time out in Baku we only got about six hours so didn't get to see a lot — we thought that was a once in a lifetime trip!

'Fortunately, we were able to take the extra time off work but so many of the guys we know that have done 40-plus games this season just haven't been able to make it.’

Celtic wonderkid lauds Duff’s impact

Teenager Karamoko Dembele has hailed the impact that former Chelsea winger Damien Duff has had on his game since his arrival at the Scottish club earlier this year.

The 16-year-old, who made his senior debut for the Hoops in a 2-1 win over Hearts last Sunday told the Celtic View of the positive impact that Duff has made on his development.

'Having people like Damien Duff around [Celtic’s training ground] Lennoxtown and at Celtic Park, that’s amazing for us. His knowledge of the game, his experience, that’s second to none, and having that type of character around has really helped my game,’ said Dembele.

‘I think it’s what I needed, to wake up a bit more and really focus on putting the hard work in. Damien is straightforward with you, there’s no messing about. He just tells you what he thinks, he tells you how it is. Basically, he tells you the truth!’

Duff joined the Hoops as coach of their reserve squad in January but became a first-team coach when Neil Lennon took over as manager, following the departure of Brendan Rodgers for Leicester City.

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