Lampard plans pathway for Chelsea young guns
Frank Lampard has agreed his Chelsea return and will signal his intent to give the club's young players a proper chance by integrating them into his first-team set-up.
Chelsea's record goalscorer finalised his contract to take over as head coach yesterday after Derby County excused him from having to return for the start of pre-season training.
Lampard's first moves will be to allow the academy players to mix with the senior professionals at the Cobham training complex. Lampard will also instruct the youth coaches to vary training times, so he can watch either before or after working with the first team.
Former head coach Maurizio Sarri did not watch a single academy training session and did not attend any U-23 games during his year in charge.
But Lampard plans, along with his assistants Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, to watch as many youth games as possible and invite academy players to train with the first team regularly.
For the first time since Andre Villas-Boas was appointed in 2011 and split the first team and academy, youngsters will eat with the first-team players and use their gym. Previously, academy players were restricted to their own building.
The prospect of Lampard taking over has caused excitement at the academy, where staff believe their efforts will now be properly rewarded.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi made the breakthrough into Sarri's team before suffering injuries, but the pair were the first home-grown youngsters to make an impact in the first team since John Terry.
That is despite the academy being rated the best in the country for the past decade. The news will be a particular boost to Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori, who have all returned from successful loans hoping for a chance.
It should also help ensure that Hudson-Odoi signs a new contract and that the next batch of youngsters do not consider leaving over a lack of opportunities.
Lampard was excused from the start of pre-season training by Derby yesterday and today, as he finalised his return to Chelsea.
The former midfielder had been willing to start pre-season with Derby, but the club decided it was better for him and the players that he concluded talks.
Derby are set for further talks with Phillip Cocu this week as the Holland midfielder emerges as Derby's No 1 choice to replace Lampard. (© Daily Telegraph, London)