Our all-time leading goalscorer will try to transfer his skills on the pitch to the Stamford Bridge dugout as he joins a select group of our former players who have gone on to manage the club.
With more goals for Chelsea than any other player and a collection of silverware bettered by few, Frank Lampard’s achievements as a player in west London will always guarantee him legend status at one of England’s top clubs.
However, the lure of the dugout and the potential of adding to those achievements has brought Super Frank back to his spiritual home – and he’s far from the first to make that transition from playing to managing Chelsea.
Here is a reminder of those who have done so in years gone by, with plenty of silverware picked up along the way.
Roberto Di Matteo
Signed in the summer of 1996 for a then club-record fee from Lazio, the Blues No16 was a classy midfielder with an eye for goal, scoring in no less than three cup finals for the club – including a sensational strike just 42 seconds into our win over Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup final. The Italian was forced to retire early through injury, but he returned to west London as assistant manager to Andre Villas-Boas in 2011. Less than a year later, having taken the reins mid-season, he achieved what no one else has before or since, leading us to Champions League glory as interim boss shortly after winning the FA Cup again.
Forget those who say Vialli was way past his best when he arrived at Chelsea after captaining Juventus to the Champions League in 1996; his record of 40 goals from 88 appearances suggests otherwise. But it as a manager that the Italian will be best remembered at Stamford Bridge, and our second most successful one at that, in terms of silverware. He had already lifted three trophies – two of which were European honours – in his first 153 days at the helm and later led us to FA Cup glory in the last final played at the old Wembley Stadium.
The dreadlocked Dutchman became an instant fans’ favourite at the Bridge, ushering in a new cosmopolitan era at the club after becoming one of the first high-profile beneficiaries of the new Bosman ruling. He finished second in the voting for the FWA Player of the Year award in 1996 shortly before taking the reins from Glenn Hoddle as player-manager at the behest of the supporters. A host of quality signings were made from overseas and Gullit further established himself as a Chelsea hero by becoming the second man to lead us to FA Cup glory on a Blue Day at Wembley.
To a man, Hoddle’s first Chelsea squad would acknowledge that the best player in training was the gaffer, who had left Swindon Town after leading them to promotion in 1993 to become the Blues’ new player-manager - which technically doesn't make him a former player moving into a dugout, although he did previously spent time training with the club while recovering from an injury. As a midfielder, he was long acknowledged as one of English football’s great talents and soon his reputation as a manager would soar as he led us to a first FA Cup final in 24 years and set the wheels in motion for the revolution which has seen Chelsea become a force both domestically and on the continent.
The very definition of a cult hero during his playing days at the Bridge; Webb was an all-action centre-half who once scored a hat-trick, kept a clean sheet while playing as an emergency goalkeeper and, most famously, netted the winner in the 1970 FA Cup final replay. He added ‘firefighter’ to his CV when returning to the club almost two decades after his last game as a player, helping to arrest the slide of a side in freefall in the winter of 1993, a run which had seen Ian Porterfield become the first Premier League manager to lose his job.
Chelsea supporters prefer to remember Hollins for his effervescent displays in the middle of the park during a golden era for the club in the Sixties and Seventies, a spell which brought major honours to the Bridge and two Player of the Year prizes for a midfielder who could do the lot. He returned as a player-coach in 1983 under John Neal, with his training sessions earning rave reviews as we earned promotion, and soon he was in the hotseat himself. Although silverware followed in the form of the Full Members Cup, Hollins departed with the Blues on course to return to Division Two.
A swashbuckling right-back who saw his career cruelly cut short by injury – at a time when many were tipping him to star for England at the 1966 World Cup – Shellito set about establishing himself in the coaching world, which began with a spell working with the club’s youngsters. By the time he followed his old team-mate Eddie McCreadie in taking charge of the first team, he was part of the furniture at the club. Famous wins over Liverpool followed, most notably in the FA Cup, and we staved off relegation from the top flight, but Shellito’s spell in charge came to an end the following season.
Like Shellito, Eddie Mac will long be remembered as one of Chelsea’s best full-backs, and his charisma took him all the way from being a part of three trophy-winning sides to the dugout as he took charge of a club in turmoil in the mid-Seventies. He needed every bit of his character to eschew many of his old mates from the squad in favour of a young core, including installing Ray Wilkins as captain, and reward came with a memorable promotion-winning campaign which ended with a fur coat wearing McCreadie urging fans to stay off the pitch as we beat Hull 4-0. That it was his last hurrah as Chelsea boss still rankles with some fans.
Most mere mortals would have reservations about filling the almighty shoes of the club’s first title-winning manager, Ted Drake. Not the Doc. Just four appearances into his role of player-coach, the maverick Scot was tasked with succeeding where his predecessor had failed in making the most of arguably the most talented group of youngsters in the club’s history. Doc’s Diamonds were born, a swashbuckling side who captured the imagination of the supporters, but a solitary League Cup was scant reward for a thrilling period in west London. Just don’t mention the Blackpool incident which proved to be the beginning of the end for his memorable spell in the dugout.
John Tait Robertson
Chelsea’s love of a player-manager was evident throughout the Nineties – and for all those chants of “You ain’t got no history”, we were merely reverting back to the earliest days in the club’s history. Robertson was the first-ever manager of Chelsea, and it was a role he combined with playing duties. Indeed, he performed well on and off the pitch, assembling a squad of players from scratch and then starring alongside them to score seven goals from midfield in our first season in the Football League. However, a strained relationship with the board led to his departure early in our second campaign.