Frank Lampard knows from personal experience just what a good job Dean Smith and John Terry have done at Aston Villa, and ahead of tonight’s game at Stamford Bridge our boss has analysed their work in the Premier League so far and examined his own relationship with the pair.

Last season, Lampard’s Derby faced Smith’s Villa on three separate occasions. It was the Villans who came out on top each time, including in the Championship play-off final which secured their promotion back to the top flight for the first time since 2016. Tonight they meet in the Premier League for the first time, with Lampard hoping his Blues side can return to winning ways against a team who drew at Manchester United on Sunday.

Our boss’s relationship with Terry is of course well known, but his acquaintance with Smith is a less familiar tale. Lampard takes up the story.

‘My dad used to actually drink in the same pub as him over in Essex,’ he revealed. ‘My dad was slightly connected to him through that. I went along to Brentford [Smith’s former club] a long time ago and spoke to some of the players. Every time I have met Dean he’s been a gentleman, good to talk to, very open.

‘I think he’s stuck to his guns this season,’ continued Lampard. ‘They invested heavily. On the one hand that gives them opportunity in the Premier League, on the other hand it would have been work to put that together quickly with new players. He’s done a good job of that. In some games, they might feel they haven’t got what they deserved.

‘They’re a very difficult opponent, they have individual quality that can hurt you, they’ve got a way of dealing with players on and off the ball which is very organised and well drilled. It’s going to be a tough game on a lot of levels.’

Lampard is excited to welcome back a Chelsea contemporary and fellow legend in Terry, who has been assisting Smith for the past 18 months. Reflecting back to their time together as players, Lampard remembers their partnership working well, on and off the pitch, and looking forward he sees bright things for Terry the coach.

‘We had a good relationship as captain and vice-captain the minute I stepped into this club,’ recalled Lampard.

‘John was clearly the next captain-in-waiting. He was almost it already. When Marcel Desailly left he stepped up. I had no problem with that, it allowed me to go about my work and play the role of vice-captain, to captain the club on quite a few occasions myself and to some good success at different times.

‘Our relationship was always good, there were no layers to it. We were good friends and respected each other as professionals and colleagues. That just remains the same.

‘I’m sure he will have a long and successful career in coaching and management, whatever way he wants to take. We all have to start in our different ways. It’s good choice: he’s working at a good club with good surroundings, and I’m sure he’s learning every day as we all do.’

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