Tuesday 20 August 2019

Jamie Carragher: 'Lampard's dream return is a major risk for club and manager'


Frank Lampard. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Frank Lampard. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Jamie Carragher

Frank Lampard is the right man in the right place at Chelsea. The immediate challenge he faces is proving it is also the right time.

Since Roman Abramovich's takeover every world-class manager has fancied the Chelsea job. Put aside the ruthlessness of their hire-and-fire policy, the reputation of Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte and even Maurizio Sarri was enhanced by trophy-winning spells.

They went in there, won silverware, were rewarded handsomely for their services, and moved on. All had considerable resources and the playing talent to win.

The brochure has changed for Frank. The best player in the Premier League, Eden Hazard, has gone. Chelsea cannot sign anyone for 12 months. He is left with an available attack of Olivier Giroud, Pedro, Willian, Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic. None would get into any other of the top-six's starting XIs. Chelsea are in new territory, hoping their greatest player can bring the club back together.

There are serious risks for Frank in accepting the position so soon into his coaching career and it shows self-belief, courage and his love for the club that he has taken it on. It might have been even braver to turn them down and wait for more favourable conditions. People say he could not say no.

I disagree. This is a job that becomes available every two years and I am sure he would have been given his chance eventually.

The stakes are higher for Frank than his predecessors. This is not just another step on a career ladder. It is his dream role.

Conte and Sarri, especially, could take the position knowing the odds were in their favour and even if it did not work out they could move on to something else in Italy or Spain. For Frank this is professional and emotional. When he decided to become a manager the ambition was to get back to Chelsea. The plan must have been for that to be when he is in his prime in four or five years' time, not this summer and not in such demanding circumstances.

I always believed that Frank would become a manager. I have known him since we were 14, when we played against each other at youth level. We were room-mates for England U-21s, both obsessed about the game. From his first press conference at Derby County he looked and sounded the part, and his unveiling at Stamford Bridge was similarly impressive. His achievements as a player command respect.

I like the way he dealt with his first challenge as Chelsea coach - taking no nonsense from David Luiz as he makes a decision on his preferred defensive pairing.

So why am I concerned?

Because I feel strongly that Frank needs to be given the space, time and respect to develop his coaching career, and there is no recent history of Chelsea giving that - even to some of the best coaches of all time who have delivered Premier League titles.

There is no point giving Frank the job now and setting a deadline to replicate his predecessors' success. I would like to think he will get more leeway, but I am a bit sceptical knowing Chelsea's track record.

Once the transfer embargo is lifted and the agents of top European coaches are circling the boardroom again, whispering in the ear of the hierarchy about how much better it can be if they get a transfer budget, can Frank be sure his bosses will be reading from the same script they used to get him here? If it was not for the transfer ban, Chelsea would have been targeting someone such as Massimiliano Allegri.

Many argue Lampard's appointment is itself proof of a change of direction at Stamford Bridge, belated recognition the club must take a longer-term approach. That is a radical departure from the past 16 years and a great promise to make amid the optimism of pre-season. Even the talk of giving youth a chance is not so simple. Two of the best academy graduates - Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek - will miss the start of the season.

Mason Mount is a player I worked with during a spell coaching England's U-16s and is a class act. He and Abraham have been good Championship players, but it is a big adjustment into the Premier League.

What if, as I anticipate, Chelsea remain well behind Manchester City and Liverpool this season? I do not believe Chelsea will make the top four. If not, there should not be talk of him being under pressure, but Frank knows the culture at the club better than anyone and what the consequences will be if Chelsea drop out of the top six.

That is why I believe it might have been wiser for him to wait. To gather more experience at a place such as Derby. He was at the perfect club to learn more about how to manage different personalities, experiment with strategies and settle on a style of leadership that will equip him for the next 10 years.

We are in an era where numerous former world-class players are looking to develop their reputation as coaches. John Terry will have ambitions beyond Aston Villa's coaching staff. Steven Gerrard will be the favourite for the Liverpool job when Jurgen Klopp steps down, especially if he makes strides with Rangers.

Boardrooms follow fashions. England's golden generation of coaches need him to succeed. When Frank retired as a professional player, he said he was eternally grateful to Chelsea for assisting his career.

His decision to return at this point in the club's history should ensure that gratitude works both ways. Chelsea owe Frank for putting it on the line to go back now. The boom and bust era in west London must end and they must repay him with the time to grow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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