After being unveiled to the world’s media as the new Chelsea head coach, Frank Lampard’s thoughts quickly turned to the task of managing the club at which he spent 13 glorious years as a player, a task he described as the biggest challenge of his career so far.
The new Blues boss admitted returning to Stamford Bridge was a huge opportunity he couldn’t turn down but he was under no illusions about the work ahead, claiming that past success in his playing career would be quickly forgotten once he moved into the dugout in SW6.
‘Everyone knows my links to the club,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to label it as the ‘dream job’ but everyone knows how I feel towards the club. I love this club and I want to do my best for this club. Hopefully we can be successful and competitive.
‘We have to start with the intention to win – if I didn’t believe that then I shouldn’t be here. We want to play in the Champions League year in, year out and that will drive us all.’
Lampard was able to confirm the backroom staff that will join him in his new role, with Jody Morris and Chris Jones switching with the 41-year-old from Derby County, while Joe Edwards and Eddie Newton are set to be promoted from existing roles in our loans and youth development programmes. These appointments will be confirmed shortly.
‘Jody is coming with me as assistant head coach,' confirmed Lampard. 'We have a really close relationship from our playing days and obviously worked together at Derby last season. We’re like-minded in how we think about football and there’s huge loyalty between us, which is really important when you work together day-to-day. He’s a fantastic coach and has strong links with the Academy here, where he was very successful.
‘Chris Jones was also at Derby with me and worked for many years at Chelsea with a lot of success with different managers so he’ll be back as a coach. Joe Edwards will move up from working with the Under-23s and he’s another person I have a great relationship with and trust how he works on the training ground.
‘Eddie Newton will also be working with us on the first team staff and again I’ve worked with him before. Of course, we won the Champions League along with Robbie Di Matteo, and he brings experience, quality of coaching and continuity to us as a group.
‘It’s a very Chelsea-orientated team but I want to emphasise it’s not an old boys club. We’re trying to put together a talented group of staff but there’s a lot of coaching experience among us.’
Our former midfielder enjoyed a trophy-laden career in west London and departed five years ago as Chelsea’s record goalscorer. However, it was the emotions of his 2001 signing that he reflected on when looking ahead to the job in front of him.
‘I would say this is the biggest challenge of my career because my playing career is done, with some great memories and challenges along the way, and I always loved a challenge,' he admitted. 'Coming here 19 years ago was a challenge because I remember driving home and listening to people on the radio questioning whether I should be here for £11m.
‘I worked really hard to try to put that right as a player and now I’m in a position where I’m going to work really hard to be successful as a manager here.
‘When I started out last season as a manager I felt that was a huge challenge because you start again. I don’t want credit for my playing career, that will last five minutes and I understand that, because I should be judged on what I do going forward.
‘I haven’t asked for extra time or patience. I’m a realist and I don’t want to ask for any favours because that’s not the way I work. I want to work hard and develop the players, whether they’re 18 or 32, and get them to feel like they’re not just passing through on the way to somewhere else. I played with lots of players who had that connection and my idea is to work with the squad to get the most out of them.’
The players will return for pre-season training on Friday, when they will fly to Dublin for a training camp that takes in fixtures against Bohemians on Wednesday 10 July and St Patrick’s Athletic three days later.
Lampard refuted the suggestion that his job was tougher given the possibility we may not be able to sign players for the remainder of the transfer window, insisting the current squad was good enough and big enough.
He was asked throughout the press conference about his intention to utilise the young players from last season’s squad, plus those returning from loan spells or emerging through our Academy, and maintained that every player would be given a fair opportunity to prove their worth.
‘We have a big squad so not everyone is going to be able to stay but we’ll try to make the best decisions for everyone and that will be our assessment over the next month of pre-season,' he explained. 'There are some young players who can be huge players for this club, some of them already are, and they can get better as well. It will part of my job to develop the young players we have.
‘The Academy will certainly be one of the things we look at strongly. The beauty of having both Jody and Joe as part of my team is we’ve known a lot of the players from a very young age and how they are.
‘We want to show them that small path between the buildings can be crossed but you have to prove yourself first. Our eyes will be on them and if they do well, we’ll see that. The Academy at this club have been doing great work for years so it would be wrong for me to come in and not look at that.
‘Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori were great for me last year but now they come back with a clean slate like every player, whether you’re young or old, whether you were here or out on loan last season. Everyone has the chance to prove in pre-season that they deserve to be in the squad going forward.’