Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard — how good does that sound? — will be holding his first official press conference as the Chelsea head coach in a couple hours, but before then, probably during yesterday’s marathon visit to the Bridge, he sat down with Chelsea TV for the traditional first interview there as well.
The questions here are not nearly as hard-hitting as they’ll probably be when facing the headline-hungry media, but Lampard’s ideas and style come through loud and clear already.
He’s a returning hero, and that gives him a leg up on most new managers in the Abramovich Era, but he’s also quite keen to move beyond the big emotion of this first day and get down to business.
“It’s surreal to a degree [to be back]. Obviously my playing career here, i don’t think i need to state how much it meant to me [but] those are my playing memories and now this is a new chapter and I’m really looking forward to it. Everyone knows how much I love that club. My absolute desire is to be here and work hard. I tried to do that as a player, to get the most out of myself on the pitch, and that’s my intention as manager.
“Emotions are big, but in a good sense because I feel for this club and everyone knows that. A lot of players in my era, we were the same. It’s the kind of thing fans relate to, when you have players who really feel and care for the club [and] I still feel that, even on this side. That’s what I want to see in my players and in my team, too, because that’s the thing fans want to see as well.”
Given that this is only Lampard’s second year in management, he’s still learning, improving, and developing his own style. He’s taking the lessons learned from the some of the best he worked with in his career, and creating his own style from there.
“I want to work and be close to my players — I still feel young; I still feel like a player in a way so I know what they want and what they need. I always appreciated managers that gave me that ... that had a relationship on the level of the pitch, made you feel good, tried to get best out of you, drove you in training every day, supported you as a player. But also I like to set standards. I want the team to work hard [make sure] that the training translates to the pitch — and that’s my job, and that’s what I want to show here. If I can see a team that works hard, that has high energy, that really has passion, and of course the talent that I know is in this squad already, then I’ll be very happy.
“What I don’t want to be is a clone of any one manager. It’s forced if you do that. I’ll try to take onboard all the information, good or bad or whatever, from throughout my career and be myself.”
One place where he can definitely show that he’s not a clone of any of his Chelsea predecessors is in terms of handling the youth and dealing with the Academy. The Blues have produced a litany of talented players in the last two decades, but only a rare few have managed to make any impact at first-team level.
With former Chelsea U18 head coach Jody Morris in tow, Lampard’s looking to change that.
“Experience is great; you can’t talk it down. It’s great to have players that have been there, that have great character, a real desire and passion for the club, and they also have a responsibility to help the younger players. The team has a really nice balance of the experienced and of the younger players [and] I want to work with those [younger] players [too]. I want to ‘dangle the carrot’. Can you work hard? Can you compete? Can you get in the team?
“[The relationship between the first-team and the academy] is important. I will work hard to make sure the communication is there, day in and day out. I’m lucky because that staff I will have will help me with that [but] I will always have my eye on the academy. It’s important. I was once that young player a very long time ago, and the one thing you want is the feeling that you can get to the first-team [...] that has to be there for you. That has to come from the top, so I have to show that. If these young players keep performing and they deserve it on merit, then they’ll be coming in to train with us. There’s a lot of hard work to do. I don’t want to make it sound easy. It will be tough, but we can try to help them.”
That’s a tricky balance of course, given the massive expectations on Chelsea from the very top, but that’s one aspect where Lampard’s playing experience at Stamford Bridge will certainly help.
“Expectations at Chelsea will always remain [and] I like that. I enjoyed that as a player, the pressure of expectations. [...] The standards have to keep rising, year after year. And that’s not just on the pitch [that’s] everybody around the place and I’ll try to push that. When you are in charge, you have to push it. People go off you and your standard. And if I can show that and what I want and get that message across clearly, then hopefully we’ll do well.”
Lampard won’t be alone in this quest, with Chelsea appearing to make a concerted effort to change that paradigm and establish a long-term plan. New technical advisor Petr Čech should be of great help in that regard as well.
“I’m delighted to have Petr here. It’s fantastic for the club. [He’s] a very smart man. It was very obvious in my playing days in the dressing room that he had the intelligence, the language, the desire to learn from people around him, to speak to people, and to bring people together. He’ll want to take the club forward in the right way. And because of our relationship, I hope we can work very well together. [...] We’ve had conversations already. We have many ideas how we can keep the club moving forward.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea TV
Onwards and upwards! Let’s get to work.