After his appointment as assistant coach on Frank Lampard’s backroom staff, the official Chelsea website spoke to Joe Edwards about his journey to the Stamford Bridge dugout, his relationship with Lampard and his desire to drive our youngsters to succeed.
Edwards has waited longer than most for his breakthrough into the Chelsea senior setup. A schoolboy player in our Academy who signed at the age of eight, he fell short of being offered a scholarship and soon found himself back with the Under-9s, this time working as a coach.
His progress over the 12 years since has been steady but measured as he developed the art of coaching by working with the best young talent in the country, learning from coaches such as Steve Clarke, Brendan Rodgers, Paul Clement and Steve Holland.
Neil Bath, our head of youth development and the man who released him at 16, has offered guidance throughout his journey and will certainly be watching his ascent to the Stamford Bridge dugout with great pride. It is not just Chelsea Academy players making an impression on Frank Lampard – the entirety of his backroom staff have spent time working under Bath in our youth development programme in various roles over the past decade.
It is therefore no surprise that Edwards views his promotion to assistant coach as the culmination of a lifelong quest to make his own Chelsea breakthrough.
‘It’s a special achievement for me, not just in my career but in my life as well,’ he said. ‘I have such a strong affiliation with this club, from being a Chelsea fan around the age of five to then joining as a player at eight. Pretty much since I was a kid, I’ve been aspiring to get to the first team, firstly as a player and then as a coach.
‘It’s been a long journey with some fantastic experiences and I’m fully aware of what an amazing opportunity it is to be able to take my first step into senior football at such a special club, a club I class as my home, and such a huge club. I’m just looking forward to getting on with the job now.’
Edwards’s relationship with Lampard has developed organically over the years, helped by their connection with mutual friend and colleague Jody Morris, who Edwards worked alongside with our Under-18s.
‘It’s even more special being able to work under a manager I’ve always had huge respect for and a good relationship with,’ the 32-year old continued. ‘I had to lead on a few training sessions that Frank took part in when he was a player here and I remember getting feedback that he’d enjoyed them and was impressed with the work.
‘Since then, our relationship has been building over the years and hopefully that will help us. He came into the Academy to do his coaching badges so I’d always be talking to him and pretty much from the moment he went to Derby we were in regular contact anyway.
‘It adds to it being able to work with Frank and Jody, who I probably had the best and most enjoyable period of my coaching journey with when we worked together with the Under-16s and Under-18s.’
Edwards believes he can play a key role in forging a strong link between the Academy and men’s first team having spent so long on the other side of the road, most recently in a two-year spell as our development squad head coach. He has worked closely with many of the young players currently pushing for opportunities and feels that understanding could be crucial in driving them on to take their chances.
‘That link between first team and Academy goes way beyond just getting minutes for our young boys in the first team,’ continued Edwards. ‘Frank showed last year at Derby that he believes in giving young players an opportunity so he doesn’t need me to come and point out players for him.
'We want to keep building the link between the two buildings, the relationships between the coaches, and I’m hoping I can play a big role in that respect.
‘Everyone knows what a strong group of players we’ve had come through the Academy over the years and it helps when they have people on this side of the road who know what they’re about. They can feel a bit more confident to come over and really impose themselves on the session, although equally we know their standards and when we need to push their buttons, so we can drive them even more.
‘In the modern game, success is expected very quickly and although we’ll give opportunities to them, they will also need to really hit the ground running. The fact we’re comfortable with each other and we have good relationships will hopefully help us push and challenge them every day in that sense.’
The Blues are back in pre-season action on Tuesday when they take on Barcelona in Saitama. The match can be watched via a live stream on this website or on our 5th Stand app.
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