Player power – it is an expression that was frequently used by the media to describe what they believed was a force within at Chelsea during the days when Frank Lampard was one of the members of the squad.
It was particularly mentioned back then when results were not good and the manager of the day may have been under pressure but Lampard recalls it was as much about the players taking responsibility for their own performances and the team, so it was a sign of strength rather than weakness. Player power can be a positive as well as a negative he explains.
‘Having been in those squads, I can state clearly that sometimes how that player power phrase got relayed out to the open world and how it was inside was not always the same thing,’ Lampard begins.
‘Player power can be two things, it can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing, and a lot of times in my time here at club, when you have a strong squad of players in their prime performing at the top level there will still be dips but they have personality and they dig in and and find a way, that’s what players do at top clubs who are successful time and time again.
‘Where we are at the minute means we have been off the pace in terms of winning the Premier League for a few years so we’re not in that. When you’re in a rebuild you’re searching for anything that can help this squad grow because as it’s growing there are tough times, they have to react and get over it. Then there’s another tough time and they have to react and get over that.
‘The players have to do that, so for me I’m looking closely now at the players, as I look at myself, because the players will do it on the pitch but I’m always at the forefront of it, to find how they react and dig in as a group because a lot of them are young, some are very new, it’s a big ask to ask young players and players fresh to this club to be like the players who have been here for many years and seen it all before. Other teams around in the Premier League have that, we do not have that, so that’s the first part of player power.’
He goes on to explain that the second part is when people talk negatively. He realised quickly in his job that whether the team wins or loses, but particularly if it loses some games and because of the size of the squad with more players not starting the game than starting it, then players react differently.
‘The players that are wanting to play, some of them will use that for really positivity but some not so much,’ he says.
‘Maybe some will speak behind backs because that’s how life is, I can’t be concerned with that. All I can say is the players here I feel have a real desire to get out of this mini run of bad results and I can see that in them. If there are players that don’t have those concerns to get out of it then they have decisions to make, and if there’s opportunities that players leave it will have to be right for them, for myself and for the club and then that can happen. But if not we keep fighting and moving on because they want to play and contribute and I want to tap into the positive side of that.
‘Players that are not playing will not be happy and they shouldn’t be happy because players want to start for this club, but the basic maths of it is that I have to pick a team that goes out and on top of that because we have a big squad then there are some players that are not playing. I don’t ask for them to be jumping up and down when they get home about how great I am but all we’re asking for is to train well, back your team-mates, have a determined attitude every day and that’s it.
‘I don’t expect it to be a popularity contest for myself, I never felt that in the dressing room under any manager at the best of times or in tough times, that’s not the point. The point is that the club and players have to keep fighting in tough times. What we have to do is stick together.’
On whether the squad will be trimmed this month, Lampard had this to say.
‘We’ll see what happens because we’re in a very tough time in terms of Covid so anything would have to be right for the club first and foremost, for the player depending on contracts and for myself, so it’s not a simple question to answer. You want to have a squad that means you can give real balance to it and give players minutes and have good competition at the same time.
‘I understand players are not happy when they’re not playing, I understand that, I just can’t make the decision to play everyone and that can be challenging. At the minute we have a big squad but the first thing is how we perform week in, week out and at the moment we’re not getting the results we want. Before we were so let’s hope we get back to it very soon.’