Frank Lampard on proving people wrong, his target for the season and what he expects from his young players...
The new experiences are coming thick and fast for Frank Lampard the manager. This afternoon at Cobham following training, he sat down in front of the media to preview a competitive match for the very first time as Chelsea boss.
It was a packed room, with journalists from all over the world desperate to get their question across to Lampard. The eve of a new season is always a tantalising time for any football fan, and for those of a Chelsea persuasion even more so when one of our true greats will be in the dugout. The boss is determined for his Blues side to maximise their potential and show what they are capable of in the coming weeks and months.
‘We have had a good pre-season, but now the real stuff is coming,’ said Lampard.
‘You can feel it in the air. I am excited and the players are excited, and now we have to deliver. With the ban it’s been very easy to write off this squad, but I am not writing it off. We are hungry to try and prove to everybody we will be up there this year. I believe in this squad.
‘What’s important is you have one target within the group, and everyone else has their targets or predictions. I love listening to the radio and hearing people saying we’re not in the top four, and reading all those predictions. It means there is a challenge. There is nothing better in football than proving people wrong.
‘We should all accept that challenge. What matters is how we approach it. Within these walls we believe we can really have a go. I will drive that and the players will drive that.’
Understandably, Lampard didn’t want to specify a final league placing that would make 2019/20 a successful one for Chelsea.
‘Of course this club aims to be playing Champions League football every year. We did that last year and I would love to be able to do that again for us. I’m not settling for fourth place, but we’re realistic. We will have to work every day to improve and improve and improve, and try and stay right up there.
‘Manchester City and Liverpool showed the rest of us there is a gap, and that’s a gap everyone has to try and make up. We are striving to do that. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say this position or that position will be a success.
‘We can only admire some of the points tallies, but one of the beauties of football is every team starts the season the same, and then it’s up to you what you do. We have to try and rise to that challenge.’
Lampard is looking forward to Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford, a ‘huge game’ at an ‘incredible’ venue he remembers always staging a difficult match for Chelsea whatever the year. It will be no different this weekend.
The transfer ban means the fresh Chelsea faces in the squad who will head north are youngsters, most of whom have come through our Academy. Lampard is excited at what the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James can offer his squad this season.
‘I don’t know what their ambitions are but I know the talent they have,’ stressed Lampard.
‘I love working with them, training with them, I love them as lads because they’re very driven and they’re like sponges on the training pitch. They bring enthusiasm and quality to training every day, which gives great balance to our squad.
‘Youth is an important part of our squad. It’s not everything, for sure we need the experience and players who have been around the block a bit, but I am expectant. That’s not to put too much on their shoulders, it’s just what I see every day. That door has to be open for them, and they have to open the door and walk through it. Let’s see them do it.’
The final question drew on Lampard’s sentimentality. With the big kick-off so near now, what did it mean to be leading Chelsea into a new era?
‘It means a great deal and I don’t want to take it for granted,’ replied Lampard.
‘It is an incredible feeling. I am very proud to be manager of this club. It means so much in terms of the affiliation I have with the fans. The day I moved across town to play for this club it became my club instantly. Everyone knows how I feel about Chelsea.
‘So to manage them is an amazing thing for me, but I am past the surreal feeling. I am in the job now. I know what the office looks like, I know everyone again, I have met the new faces I didn’t know before, and the important part now is what I do on the pitch. I am very dedicated to the task of not just being Chelsea manager; I want to be a successful one.’