There were words of recognition for the Chelsea fans and an insight into the subtleties of working with young players as Frank Lampard looked ahead to our Premier League meeting with Brighton & Hove Albion.
Lampard has reiterated that his young Chelsea side are taking positive steps forward and this has been highlighted in the past two performances at Stamford Bridge. Our most recent Premier League fixture ended in a narrow defeat at the hands of Liverpool, our first league loss since April, also inflicted by Jurgen Klopp’s side.
However, there were encouraging signs in the way we halved the deficit and pushed fearlessly in the second half for an equaliser, momentum that was maintained in our 7-1 midweek thrashing of Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup.
At the final whistle of both games, there was appreciation shown from the Chelsea fans and Lampard believes that reveals a mutual understanding between those on the pitch and those in the stands. It is something he is keen to continually strengthen in the weeks and months ahead, starting with a first home league win of the season this afternoon.
‘I was happy because I think everyone in the stadium had the same feeling,’ said the boss when reflecting on the reaction of the supporters at full-time of our 2-1 defeat to the Reds.
‘Fans will always react to desire, fight and work ethic, and we were showing those things. They want to see players who give everything and want to play for this club. The young players have definitely brought a different dimension as well and there’s no doubt the fans are loving seeing them come through.’
The boss went on to explain how he had experienced similar sentiments on the street when coming across supporters near his west London home but he was also keen to stress the danger of misunderstanding that goodwill. He knows that positive performances must translate into victories as soon as possible.
‘I bump into Chelsea fans all the time,’ Lampard continued. ‘I live five minutes away so it’s hard not to but everyone has been really supportive with what we’re trying to do and now I want to repay that. I want to do it quickly but I also know it’s a bit of a process. A lot of the fans are saying they see it might take a bit of time so that’s nice but we have to work like we want it tomorrow.
‘I don’t want to just keep extending the honeymoon period based on passion and desire but I believe it’s also the responsibility of the manager to try to connect the club, the fans and everyone behind the scenes.
‘That’s the good thing about having a connection between the fans and the team because it works both ways – you feed off them but then you feel they deserve a win because of the way they stay and clap when you lose. I really appreciate their support but now I want to give them wins.’
His managerial career may still be in the embryonic stages but Lampard is already developing a reputation as a coach who likes to work with young players. Seven of the 11 most-used players by Derby County in the Championship last season were aged 24 or younger, including Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, while this campaign has seen the Blues field their youngest-ever Premier League team.
‘It’s the really interesting part of my job and I love that side of it,’ said Lampard on working with young players. ‘You have to judge the moments where you think maybe they’re a little tired or maybe they didn’t understand the information I gave them in training.
‘They’ve all got different personalities so some of them need cajoling while others definitely need some tough words at times to help them improve. That’s where my job is really interesting because I love seeing improvement and progression. All these players want to be the best player they can be for Chelsea, which I love.
‘Jody [Morris] and Joe [Edwards, both assistants to Lampard] also know them so well so within our coaching team we can split that work and pay attention to all those moments. It’s not always technical on-pitch stuff, sometimes it can be emotional things or players just growing up or getting lots of exposure after a good performance.’
One of our exciting Academy contingent back in the squad is Callum Hudson-Odoi, who returned from a long-term injury absence to play 90 minutes and score against the Mariners on Wednesday night. Lampard confirmed in his Friday press conference that the 18-year-old, along with Reece James, could be involved against Brighton.
He also explained how the Wandsworth winger needed to improve further still in order to maximise his enormous potential, citing one of Hudson-Odoi’s England international team-mates as the prime example of what can be achieved when talents meets hard work.
‘I know Callum’s talent is huge, which is why the club were so keen to get him signed up and we’re all delighted with that, but there is a lot for him to do,’ added Lampard. ‘Raheem Sterling is an incredible example of a player with great talent whose work ethic, added to that talent, and improvement in a short period of time through absolute dedication leads to the complete player that we’re all wowed by now.
‘That’s a great model for Callum because he has that talent. I want him to be the best because he has the potential to do that for us.’