Frank Lampard has been discussing the international involvement of two of his players over the past week as we prepare to face Southampton in the Premier League, one who made his national team debut and the other who could make his for Chelsea today...
Club managers can cut frustrated figures in the days following an international break, with players sporadically reporting back for club duty often complaining of fatigue and fitness concerns. However, Frank Lampard was pleased with the weeks enjoyed by Reece James and Hakim Ziyech with England and Morocco respectively as he looked back on their time away.
James was initially part of the England Under-21 squad before injuries in Gareth Southgate’s group opened the door for his first senior call-up. The defender made his debut as a second-half substitute against Belgium and then started the meeting with Denmark three days later, where he was viewed by many observers as the Three Lions’ outstanding performer.
His red card for dissent to the referee after the final whistle proved a sour note to end what had been a very promising camp for the 20-year-old and Lampard admitted he was hardly surprised at the youngster’s swift adaptation to senior international football.
‘I thought his performance was very good,’ said James’s club boss. ‘I sort of expect that because I expect a lot from Reece, although you should probably never expect that on a full debut.
‘He showed his comfort in the game against Belgium before that when he came on, where it looked like he’d been playing for a long time, and his performance against Denmark was also really good.
‘His progress has been phenomenal. It was when he played at Wigan in the Championship - I followed him closely and tried to take him to Derby in the January window but it didn’t happen. I’ve always been a big fan of his in terms of his.
‘There are things he’ll want to improve in his game and the great thing about Reece and a lot of the other younger players at the club is that they’re very open to that and they want to improve all the time. He has great natural talent, great physical attributes, can be worked on and he’s going to be a fantastic player for this club for a long time.’
Lampard did have a quiet word with James on his return to Cobham this week about the circumstances of his dismissal, England’s second of the night, although it was hardly cause for major concern in the head coach’s eyes.
‘I did have a word with him about the end and the fact he got involved with the referee,’ continued Lampard. ‘We’re all human. I’ve been there and done it as a player and maybe as a manager as well.
‘None of us are saints but it will definitely be one for him to learn from. When you have a performance of that level playing for your country you’ll get a lot of plaudits and there was no need for him to get involved with the referee after. It was a pretty simple conversation and something he’ll definitely take on board.’
Ziyech was another of Lampard’s players who enjoyed match minutes on the international stage during the break, something that surprised some onlookers given the wideman has yet to feature competitively for the Blues following a knee injury sustained during our pre-season game at Brighton.
However, Lampard has revealed a 30-minute cameo in a friendly against Senegal last Friday was carefully planned between club, country and player. The boss confirmed in his Friday press conference that Ziyech was ‘fit enough to participate in some way, we hope’ against Southampton today.
‘I was pleased with it,’ said Lampard about the 27-year-old’s involvement. ‘We had an open conversation going into it where Hakim spoke to me and I know he had close conversations with their manager.
‘If he was going to stay behind, I was looking at getting him minutes in a game behind closed doors but that is difficult for us because of the bubble we have at the moment. The ideal result was that he played 30 minutes for his country, which was exactly what he needed at that time, and he came back and did some more training with us so it worked out well.’