MATT BARLOW: Frank Lampard’s pride and reputation took a hit after his Chelsea sacking… after biding his time the Everton job appears to be right as he gets set to try to save the Toffees’ season
- Frank Lampard is expected to be confirmed as the new manager of Everton
- It’s been more than a year since he was sacked as Chelsea manager
- Big jobs such as Aston Villa and Newcastle passed the Chelsea legend by
- The time is right for Lampard to return and the Everton role is a good fit for him
Little more than a year has passed since Frank Lampard woke to an ominous text message from Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck summoning him to the boardroom at Stamford Bridge.
His time as head coach of the club where he scored a record 211 goals was at an end. There was no attempt to deny his ego was bruised and he has resisted the urge to plunge straight back in, but he always knew he would be back in the game.
Lampard has devoted the bulk of the last 12 months to family life, with son Freddie born in March, along with the occasional shift as a TV pundit and a determination to continue his coaching studies while digesting the lessons of his career thus far.
Frank Lampard is set to win the battle to be appointed as the new manager of Everton
Last summer, there was interest in the vacancy at Crystal Palace and an interview before the appointment of Patrick Vieira. There were strong links to Celtic, although it was never a realistic option. Lampard spoke vaguely of ‘flattering offers’ but was prepared to wait for the right one.
Then there was an interview, which did not go well, at Norwich in November. Lampard was in Dubai and seemed unprepared, unsure of the players, when they flew out to discuss with him the idea of taking over from Daniel Farke.
Left distinctly unimpressed, the Norwich board switched their attention quickly to Dean Smith, recently fired by Aston Villa.
Lampard’s reputation took a big hit after he was sacked as manager of Chelsea last January
Big clubs such as Aston Villa and Newcastle looked elsewhere (Villa manager Steven Gerrard pictured)
Again, Lampard’s reputation took a hit. Big jobs at Newcastle and Villa came and went without him really getting into the conversation. As time ticked by, the positive things he achieved at Derby and Chelsea faded a little further from memory.
At both clubs, he made a positive impact and connected supporters with the team. Derby fans will never forget his feud with Leeds and a thrilling 4-2 win at Elland Road in the play-offs.
The emotional return to Chelsea started well, too, with high-tempo, adventurous football the perfect antidote to a year under Maurizio Sarri, and a return to the Champions League despite a transfer ban, the sale of Eden Hazard and the complications of a three-month hiatus caused by the pandemic.
Lampard turned to academy graduates such as Mason Mount and Reece James, now established in the first team at Stamford Bridge, and Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, who fetched combined fees of £60million when sold to Italy. How would these gifted youngsters, now all with England caps, have developed without him?
Chelsea had been top of the Premier League just 50 days before his dismissal and, clearly, he did not make a complete mess of things, even if there were mistakes. He lost the trust of some key senior players and failed to maintain good lines of communication with the board. By the time he left, they were ninth and floundering.
Lampard’s interview with Norwich felt underprepared as Dean Smith was given the job
He was also interviewed for the Crystal Palace job which was taken by Patrick Vieira
‘Your pride takes a hit,’ Lampard told Sportsmail columnist Jamie Redknapp in his first interview after leaving the Bridge. ‘For the first week, I kept my head down, staying at home, spending time with the family. But the minute I got out there were cabbies and Chelsea fans in the streets who gave me a real lift because of how they were with me.’
His status as a legend remains intact and yet Chelsea’s instant success in his absence did not reflect well. Thomas Tuchel arrived and, within four months, had won the Champions League with the same group of players and climbed back into the top four.
For some, this supported a theory that Lampard was wet behind the ears, making costly errors in an unforgiving environment as he learned his new trade, and that he would benefit from someone with more experience and tactical acumen on his coaching staff, particularly when it came to his in-game decision making.
Although Tuchel will probably sympathise with his predecessor after sampling his first full campaign in English football, chasing trophies on all fronts.
Equally, the Derby crisis has cast a different complexion on Lampard’s one season at Pride Park. The Rams are in administration, deducted 21 points and fighting to survive as they try to avoid relegation to League One.
Positives of Lampard’s time at Derby and Chelsea were forgotten about after his sacking
The Everton job would give him the chance to reignite his managerial career with a team that have struggled this season
Owner Mel Morris broke the rules to provide managers like Lampard with a squad they could not afford. There were loaning signings such as Mount, Tomori and Harry Wilson, big spending to beat Championship rivals to the likes of Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott, and even a short-term deal to tempt in Ashley Cole.
Still, Derby did not go up. They came close, but as soon as they lost to Villa in the play-off final at Wembley, the cost cutting began in earnest, with Morris pleased to pocket compensation from Chelsea, who were low on credible options to replace Sarri because of their predicament with the transfer ban.
Lampard, 43, will be wiser boss for all of these experiences dealing with the egos of modern footballers in the dressing room and the extreme pressure of expectation from modern owners in the boardroom.
There is no preparation for this. Not even if you happen to be one of the greatest players in the Premier League era, born into a footballing family, with a contacts book bursting with the biggest names in the game.
In a strange way, it might help to have a sacking on his record, freeing him from sniping about privilege from those who claimed he had been lucky to leap from the Championship to the Champions League without so much as a promotion to his name.
Lampard is set to take over at an Everton team which has endured a season of turmoil
Vitor Pereira was expected to take the Everton role before fans protested against him
‘You’re not a manager until you’ve been sacked,’ as Roy Hodgson told Lampard in a soothing conversation full of sagely advice, soon after his Chelsea exit.
He is smart enough and dedicated enough to absorb the lessons and evolve, and is planning changes to his coaching team, with Jody Morris not expected to join him as assistant when he takes his next job.
At Everton, there is plenty of scope for improvement but without an unreasonable expectation to the win the Premier League.
Lampard, already suitably unpopular across the city at Liverpool, has a proven ability to make fans feel good about their team again with his profile, personality and passion for an attacking style of football.
This has to be the immediate aim for Farhad Moshiri and his shambolic regime at Goodison Park.
The time feels right for Lampard to return and Everton feels like a good fit for him.
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