From Amsterdam to Lancashire, Chelsea’s third game in eight days takes place against Burnley at Turf Moor in the Saturday evening slot as the Blues push for a seventh successive victory in all competitions.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since a similar winning run was strung together and confidence is naturally high amid such positive momentum, particularly in the aftermath of our Champions League win against Ajax in midweek.
However, boss Frank Lampard knows the hidden dangers that can emerge during these runs and he has warned against complacency as we look to cement our position in the Premier League top four.
While Lampard does not believe in regularly delivering the ‘hairdryer’ treatment to keep players on their toes, he prefers other management methods that can be used to effectively push the dressing room to even higher levels of performance.
‘I remember having good runs of form as a player and maybe slightly relaxing in training in moments so the form eventually turned,’ he revealed. ‘As I got older, I was more fearful of those good patches and any kind of relaxation around that so I push that now and the staff do too.
‘There have been a couple of words occasionally but I’m not a manager that’s full of rollockings. I like to have a message that’s pretty clear over a period of time that I try to drive home with the players. If things aren’t working out, it’s probably my job to keep reinforcing it until we get it right.’
Culture has been an important part of Lampard’s focus in these early months in the job and he has been careful to create the best possible working environment for his staff and players. Team togetherness was hailed by Tammy Abraham after our win in the Netherlands and Lampard knows that coaxing the best from his players is a skill that constantly needs refining.
‘If I ever felt there was a lack of effort in training or games then that would be the moment to have strong words but regular rollockings become white noise and not usually a positive,’ he explained. ‘It’s uncomfortable to work in that environment – it’s good to be on edge but nobody at work wants to be in fear of a rollocking every day.
‘Harry [Redknapp] was probably the most vocal manager I had in my early days at West Ham, throwing a sandwich or whatever, but the game has moved on slightly and I know Harry moved on very much as a manager. He might say he handed out less of those as his days went on and the modern player slightly changed so you do have to adapt to that.’
The youngest player in the Blues dressing room this season is Callum Hudson-Odoi and the teenager has provided plenty of evidence of his talent since returning to full fitness, and to the starting team, in recent weeks. Lampard knows he has one of the most exciting young players around but he is also desperate to ensure that the 18-year-old fulfils his huge potential to the maximum. That means close attention and sometimes tough love.
‘It was a great night for him against Ajax because it showed he was a real threat to them but then the next stage is to be the threat with end product, which was a great little lesson for him,’ continued Lampard.
‘I’ve been relatively firm with him and even sometimes when speaking to the outside world about him doing better with things because I feel he’s a player that will react well to that. I’ve mentioned Raheem Sterling before because he’s such a good role model for a young English player who plays in a similar position to see the development in all senses.
‘I want the same from Callum and that only starts with what happens day-in, day-out in training. He has to try to get every ounce out of it and listen to me, the staff and his team-mates because they’ll drive him as well. It’s all good at the minute so I expect and hope that his development keeps going at the rate it’s going.’
Lampard’s assistants Jody Morris and Joe Edwards have worked with Hudson-Odoi for years in the Chelsea Academy and they are uniquely placed to help push the young forward to be the very best. He has two assists in his past two Premier League appearances but the exciting thing for Lampard, and all Chelsea supporters, is the boss’s belief that there is still so much more to come.
‘The fact that I know him, plus Jody and Joe know him a lot better than me at close quarters, is a big positive for us,’ he added. ‘We know the talent he has but we also know what more we want out of him, which is normal for any young player.
‘From the moment he stepped back on the training pitch when he was fit enough, we’ve been on him about things he can improve – on the ball, off the ball, end product, all the things that will make him a really top player. It’s been great to see him showing signs of that, I’m really happy with his progress and there’s more to come.’