Although the English football season has been on hold for some time now, Frank Lampard has not stopped working and planning with the players and his tight-knit backroom team, adapting to the challenges we are all facing in the most-effective way possible.
It has also given him time to reflect on things, and during the period of lockdown he gave his most extensive interview to date on life as a coach to Chelsea magazine, which you can read in Issue 190, out this week.
Over the course of an in-depth conversation, he took the magazine through his coaching journey, from the first time he had thoughts of management right through to how he is coping with the difficult situation we now find ourselves in. It is a true insight into his life as Chelsea head coach.
This issue is on sale in selected supermarkets and newsagents, while season ticket holders and subscribed members should receive their copies this week , subject to post.
Here’s three of our favourite talking points to whet your appetite.
Handling the Scrutiny
The spotlight is on every decision the Chelsea head coach makes, but Lampard has become used to it and takes an open-minded approach to dealing with it.
‘You have to handle it in your own way. There’s no other way to do it, because you can’t try to be something you’re not, or think that nothing will affect you. It does. There are huge pressures in the job and I understood that very quickly, firstly at Derby, and when I came to Chelsea I saw it was a level up at a club that is fighting towards the top of the Premier League.
‘It is much bigger and things get consumed by it – your home life gets consumed, and you just have to handle it as well as you can, and not let it affect you in a negative way.
‘I don’t think you should be absolutely closed to it, because sometimes you can pick out good things from scrutiny, whether you agree with it or not. So I don’t completely close my ears to it, but what I’ve really noticed is that the fall-out from games is so much driven by the result.
‘So I generally go on how I feel about the game and make that the important thing. I feel better about some of the games that we’ve lost or drawn than I do about some of the ones that we’ve won. I try not to be led too much by the scrutiny from the outside – you have to respect it for what it is, because you can’t manage a club the size of Chelsea and think you’re going to make every Chelsea fan, every outside fan and every pundit happy. I listen to it a bit, but the main thing is to stay focused on the job you’re doing, and after every game, you analyse it, then look to the next one – simple as that.’
Lessons learned this season
It’s certainly been an unpredictable campaign and Lampard admits the events of 2019/20 have taught him a lot...
‘I’ve learned so much this year. The pandemic is obviously a crazy situation and the biggest thing it’s taught us is perspective – the fact that, actually, what’s really important is togetherness and family. I think that’s been a good thing for me to be reminded of because I get so invested in the job.
‘In terms of the season up to that point, I wasn’t that fearful of coming in under those circumstances last summer. I knew people would say that I’d got a job because I played here, that I’d only had one year at Derby, and it’s a big job, and because of the ban it was easy to give it to me. I knew all that, and it didn’t bother me.
‘I just saw it as an opportunity to come to a place that I love and give it my best shot. I was confident. I knew that it would be tough to make it into the top four, and we weren’t expected to by people on the outside, but I wanted to give it a go and prove some people wrong.
‘Along the way, it’s been easy to cast your eye at the younger players coming into the team, but I also think some of the performances by the more experienced players in the team – the likes of Kovacic, Jorginho, Willian – I don’t have to name them all, but you can go through the squad and there’s been some real big plusses out of it. I don’t want to dwell on it, though, because my next job is to look ahead.
‘I don’t want us to be a development team, where people talk about our Academy players coming through. I want us to be a team that’s looking to bridge the gap going upwards.’
A squad with potential
Frank tells us it was a priority for him to work closely with the Academy and to be aware of any young players showing the potential to make the step up…
‘It was always going to be a priority and the relationships were already there. Joe [Edwards] and Jody [Morris] knew all the players, I knew the more prominent ones, and we all knew Neil Bath and Jim Fraser [from the Academy] well. It just had to be reconnected because it hadn’t been as connected in recent years.
‘I wanted to know all the players, the names of the ones who were training well and deserved a chance. It’s easy to pluck a Billy Gilmour, but it’s also a case of hearing that, say, Henry Lawrence is training well – then get him over, get him training with us.
‘All those little details are important and it’s brilliant, it’s what it’s all about – it shouldn’t
be any other way.
‘I’m certainly excited about the squad we’ve got, with the young players and if we can get a few additions for areas I feel we need. We didn’t bring in anyone in January, it didn’t work out to be right for us at the time, and last summer we couldn’t bring anyone in, so those windows are gone and we haven’t changed. So I am excited about the squad we’ve got, if we can freshen up in the right areas – we all know that.’
The interview appears in full in Issue 190 of Chelsea magazine