Chris Wilder, the manager of Saturday’s opponents Sheffield United, has been praising Frank Lampard in the build-up to the game, and the complements are reciprocated, although the Chelsea head coach is at pains to point out his own side’s season cannot be considered a success yet.
Wilder, the Blades boss since 2016, is impressed with the start Lampard has made to his shorter career in management, saying:
‘Going into a football club where he was one of the best players in that club’s history, to take on manager role takes some bottle. He’s attacked it like he did his playing career. They’re an outstanding team with a freedom which all comes from the manager and when they need to dig in, they do.’
Lampard, considering those words, responds: ‘I have seen his [Wilder’s] story from League One through the Championship, going up against his teams a few times now, and what he has done this year. Whatever happens in the final few games, his story as a manager is incredible and I have huge respect for him.
‘It was a big challenge for me,’ he confirms about returning to Stamford Bridge. ‘I have always tried to believe in myself in football and if you are going to manage in the Premier League then you have to. You have to believe in your message, otherwise who will believe in you? The players, the fans, the club, they won’t. So I have been pretty strong on that and I am relatively happy so far. I still think we could have done more.’
With Chelsea having moved up to third in the Premier League table for the first time since November with our win over Crystal Palace, qualification for next season’s Champions League is very much in our own hands. However Leicester City and Manchester United are just one and two points behind us respectively, with Man U in similarly good form.
‘I don’t fully believe in momentum,’ Lampard points out. ‘I believe in the next game that comes so although we have had some good results of late generally, you are only as good as your next game. That is the important one in front of us. We are sort of in charge of our own destiny. I am not reverting back to previous results, we are looking ahead to Sheffield United and beyond.’
On whether he was anticipating Chelsea could finish in the top four when he took over a year ago, Lampard admits he did not have firm expectations either way, due to arriving at club with a record of achievement, but one that has normally been in a position to replace departing important players of the calibre of Eden Hazard. The transfer ban last summer rendered that impossible.
‘We have had to find ways round that and now the destiny is in our own hands and it is up to us,’ he says. ‘I am pretty happy with where we are. We could have done even better at times, but I can’t jump the gun now because we have seen in the last few weeks how the table can look very different very quickly. So we mustn’t jump ahead of ourselves. It is where we end [the season] that will be important.’