There has been plenty of talk this week about love stories and rivalries in modern football, something Frank Lampard is more than qualified to comment on.
On consecutive weekends in the Premier League, Lampard the manager will face the two clubs he represented as a player either side of his glorious 13-year career at Stamford Bridge. West Ham visit SW6 next Saturday but first up for the Blues is this evening’s trip to Manchester City, where Lampard spent the 2014/15 season following his departure from Chelsea.
Before the end of September in that campaign, our record goalscorer was facing Jose Mourinho’s side at the Etihad Stadium. He started on the bench and came on in the 78th minute with City a man down and a goal behind. In his short time on the pitch, Lampard famously made one crucial intervention, steering the ball past Thibaut Courtois for the equaliser.
The game ended 1-1 and afterwards Mourinho said: ‘When a player leaves to join a direct rival then the love story is over'. That comment has resurfaced this week following Mourinho’s appointment as the new Tottenham head coach and Lampard has admitted it was a remark that stung him when it was made.
‘I didn’t feel it was quite right at the time,’ he said. ‘It was directly after the match and sometimes the emotions can affect the comment, especially because I had scored the equalising goal.
‘The bigger picture for me is that the love story is decided by the fans and the club. It’s proven now I’m back here managing the club.
Despite snatching two points from the Blues that afternoon, Lampard was serenaded and afforded a hero’s reception at the final whistle by the travelling Chelsea fans, who did not have the opportunity to say a proper goodbye at the Bridge. Lampard believes that reception took his relationship with the supporters to another level.
‘I was concerned about the reaction of going to Man City after 13 years here,’ he claimed. ‘I wondered whether at 36 years old it was something I should take on because of what I feel about this club but then my professional head, the challenge of it and the period of not playing before going to New York all came together and led me to take a decision that was quite tough at the time.
‘The reaction I got from the Chelsea fans that day was an emotional thing for me and it hasn’t stopped from that day.’
Five years on, Lampard is now back home at Chelsea as the manager and he feels that season in Manchester was particularly useful for his learning of the game. Coming to the end of his playing career, his mind was turning towards a possible transition into coaching and spending a year under Manuel Pellegrini with a completely different group of team-mates is something he feels has benefited him enormously.
‘I wanted to finish my career at Chelsea but it didn’t work out that way,’ added Lampard. ‘It worked out well because the year I had in Manchester was perfect for me in terms of what I’m doing now as a manager.
‘It opened my eyes to another club, another structure, another dressing room, another coaching philosophy, and then at New York City that continued and it starts to shape what you think is next, so I can’t look back on my career with any negative feelings, even about leaving Chelsea.’
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