In the wide-open, parity-fest that is The Championship, Frank Lampard’s Derby County are only four points out of first place despite winning only half of their opening ten league matches. It’s not the worst start for Super Frank in his first-ever job in football management. In fact, thanks to his exploits in the League Cup, it could even be considered a success (so far).
Their journey in the Cup started easy enough, with an away trip to Oldham Athletic, but they’ve since beaten fellow Championship side Hull City (also away) and recorded the shock of the round last week by eliminating Manchester United at Old Trafford. Their string of away games will continue at the end of October, when Lampard’s Derby come to Stamford Bridge.
The big story is of course Lampard (and former Chelsea coaches Jody Morris and Chris Jones) coming home, but as any good head coach would, he emphasizing the fantastic opportunity for his players to do something special once again.
“It’s a nice occasion for me, it’s a nice story and nice emotions around it personally, but the great test is for the players. We came through the Manchester United game so well with a mixture of the younger players and the experienced players and to go and perform at Old Trafford like we did is a credit to them.
“It is a similar occasion for them to go to Stamford Bridge and give a good account of ourselves whatever the result may be. It’s a very tough game for us to win again but I think the test for the players against such a fantastic team is going to be a great one for them.
“We know that our performance has to be top class to have any chance in the game so that’s the standard we need to set and keep up with it. If we can replicate that performance then we have a chance but with teams like Chelsea and Manchester United, they have top world class players that sometimes take the game away from you.
“I will be happy with us if we go there and give a good account of ourselves, show the work ethic, show the quality that we have and show the courage like we did against Manchester United. We want to make it a nice occasion for ourselves and our travelling fans.”
As just one six-non top-flight teams left in the competition, Lampard’s already done well to get Derby this far. For Super Frank himself, it will be a special occasion regardless of the outcome, but victory at Stamford Bridge could elevate the run to near legendary status — Derby have made it past Round 4 only twice since 1990.
“It will be very special to go back to Stamford Bridge. It was my home and my club for 13 years and the opportunity go back and see the fans and the people behind the scenes is an incredible occasion for me. It’s a club that took me in. I moved across London from a so-called rival and they took me in instantly. I was fortunate enough to spend successful years there and it was a family. It still feels that way but the club moves on.
“I think they’ve got a very good manager in Maurizio Sarri and I respect him. I had a conversation with him in pre-season and I think they’re in good hands with him as a manager. It will be a pleasure to go up against him personally and it will also be a pleasure to go back to Stamford Bridge.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Derby County FC
With Lampard, Morris, Jones as well as loanees Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori — who may or may not be eligible to play against Chelsea — we’ve jokingly called this Derby team Chelsea B a few times. But for 90 minutes on or about October 31, there will possibly be an All Hallows’ Eve for all to remember.