It’s almost time. After the ennui of the summer, the good vibes of training, and the utter drama of transfer deadline day, it’s time for the actual football to start.
And that means it’s time for Frank Lampard’s first official match in charge of Chelsea, an occasion that fills him with pride and anti ... cipation.
“It means a great deal and I don’t want to take it for granted. It is an incredible feeling. I am very proud to be manager of this club. It means so much in terms of the affiliation I have with the fans. The day I moved across town to play for this club it became my club instantly. Everyone knows how I feel about Chelsea.”
But, as we all know, Chelsea are in the winning business, not the good-feels business. We don’t have to tell that to Lampard of course.
‘To manage [Chelsea] is an amazing thing for me, but I am past the surreal feeling [...] the important part now is what I do on the pitch. I am very dedicated to the task of not just being Chelsea manager; I want to be a successful one.”
That success begins on day one, at Old Trafford. The approach must be one of confidence, belief, positive reinforcement. Us vs. Them, the tried and true classic. Lampard’s ready to lead the charge. In the words of Diego Costa, he’s going to war, and he wants Chelsea to come with him.
“We have had a good pre-season, but now the real stuff is coming. You can feel it in the air. I am excited and the players are excited, and now we have to deliver. With the ban it’s been very easy to write off this squad, but I am not writing it off. We are hungry to try and prove to everybody we will be up there this year. I believe in this squad
“What’s important is you have one target within the group, and everyone else has their targets or predictions. I love listening to the radio and hearing people saying we’re not in the top four, and reading all those predictions. It means there is a challenge. There is nothing better in football than proving people wrong.
“We should all accept that challenge. What matters is how we approach it. Within these walls we believe we can really have a go. I will drive that and the players will drive that.”
Chelsea lost a lot of experience, leadership, and most importantly, goals over the summer. Into the void now steps a very young, a very homegrown, and potentially a very exciting team. It’s hard to think of a better person than Lampard (and the rest of his coaching staff) to lead this group.
“I love working with them, training with them, I love them as lads because they’re very driven and they’re like sponges on the training pitch. They bring enthusiasm and quality to training every day, which gives great balance to our squad.
“Youth is an important part of our squad. It’s not everything, for sure we need the experience and players who have been around the block a bit, but I am expectant. That’s not to put too much on their shoulders, it’s just what I see every day. That door has to be open for them, and they have to open the door and walk through it. Let’s see them do it.”
That doesn’t mean success is preordained. It will take blood, sweat, and tears. And lots and lots of work. And dedication. And determination. We will need players to step up, to improve, to rise to the challenge.
The top four beckons if we do. To borrow the phrase of the last title-winning coach in the SW6, from the flickering flame, we can forget a blazing inferno.
“Of course this club aims to be playing Champions League football every year. We did that last year and I would love to be able to do that again for us. I’m not settling for fourth place, but we’re realistic. We will have to work every day to improve and improve and improve, and try and stay right up there.
“Manchester City and Liverpool showed the rest of us there is a gap, and that’s a gap everyone has to try and make up. We are striving to do that. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say this position or that position will be a success. We can only admire some of the points tallies, but one of the beauties of football is every team starts the season the same, and then it’s up to you what you do. We have to try and rise to that challenge.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
So say we all.