The Blues manager admits he was unsure about taking such a big job early in his coaching career, but felt he had to grasp the opportunity
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has admitted to having “a lot of doubts” before taking over at the club where he starred as a player – but felt he had no alternative but to grasp the opportunity.
Lampard was appointed at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2019 having spent just one year as a manager, at Championship side Derby County.
While Lampard arrived with plenty of goodwill having enjoyed a trophy-laden spell as a Chelsea player, he admits being acutely aware of the huge increase in pressure and expectations, and that the favour of the fans would turn quickly if results were not forthcoming.
Speaking to The Athletic, Lampard said: “It’s my club and the pull of it was always going to get me, no matter where I might have been. I didn’t know when that Chelsea opportunity might come around again, if ever.
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“On top of that, the idea of staying at Derby was a tough one. It was at a tough period and I think that’s become evident now. So the decision was clear-cut, but I did have doubts, if ‘doubts’ is the right word. Managing Derby was doing it on a much smaller scale, tight-knit, expectation levels so-so and some games would go under the radar if you didn’t get a great result.
“At Chelsea, I knew all of that would change instantly and I wanted to have a positive impact because I knew that my name and the ex-player thing wouldn’t last that long. So yeah, I had a lot of doubts.”
Despite those doubts, Lampard has enjoyed a successful start to life as Chelsea boss, returning them to the Champions League for the 2020-21 season thanks to a top-four Premier League finish, and the Blues look set to be involved in the title race in the current campaign.
The former England midfielder says he is pleased to have proven himself as a manager rather than relying on his reputation from his playing days, and that ultimately he does not care whether fans still back him because of his exploits on the field.
He said: “You can’t think about it. It doesn’t really bother me. As a player, it would; I really held onto being one of the elder statesmen of the team, one of the better performers and I loved that. It was a drive for me, but moving to Manchester City and New York City and then coming out of football for a year and going to Derby and experiencing the world changed my view a lot.
“I don’t rely on that in the way I used to when I was playing for the club. I want to be successful, this is my club and it always will be, even if the fans knock me out of the door because I didn’t succeed.”
Lampard admits to also having nerves before becoming Derby manager, and reflected on what was a crucial first talk with his new set of players when he took over back in 2018.
He said: “The first day I walked into Derby, I was sh*tting myself. I really was. It came upon me so quickly. I met Mel Morris, the owner. I was offered the job which was a big leap for him and a big leap for me.
“I’d played against a lot of the players. I played with some of them for my country. It’s how you package that first meeting, that first training session, of what you want to be. It’s so important. I had all those worries.
“What I was determined to do was to listen and learn – from everybody. I watch Match of the Day. There will be times when something’s said I don’t like and it gets your back up. Maybe we’ve been dug out because we can’t defend set pieces, so the next day I go into work and say quietly, ‘I want to have a look at set pieces one more time!’
“I like listening to other managers, podcasts of other coaches. If I can take bits from that, I will. You’ve got to be yourself, but you can still suck all that stuff in.”