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Lampard's brutal fate at club he loves reminds me why I never went into management

Jamie Carragher

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The irony is Frank Lampard is already a better manager now than when he took the Chelsea job. Photo: Getty Images

The irony is Frank Lampard is already a better manager now than when he took the Chelsea job. Photo: Getty Images

The irony is Frank Lampard is already a better manager now than when he took the Chelsea job. Photo: Getty Images

We are in an era where top players are accepting some of football's top coaching jobs when they are not ready. Frank Lampard's stint at Chelsea is the latest example. There are plenty more.

Gary Neville was unprepared for the scale of the task of managing Valencia. Thierry Henry joined Monaco prematurely. Andrea Pirlo is struggling at Juventus.

All were offered coveted positions they could not refuse. Understandably, they backed themselves to learn on the job, but coaching inexperience means you need time that owners of big clubs will never grant when trouble strikes, no matter what they promise when making these appointments.

The irony is Lampard is already a better manager now than when he took the Chelsea job because he will have confronted situations which will inform his judgment in future.

If he stays in management - and I hope he does because I truly believe he has done well in his two jobs so far - he is sure to be more comfortable at a big club aged 50 than he was at 40. Unfortunately, the dream job he most craved has gone. That was the risk I saw when he returned to Stamford Bridge.

It could never be the right time after only one year's experience at Derby County, no matter how much promise he has demonstrated.

This is the dilemma players of Frank's status and reputation must confront when deciding whether to pursue a management career. The power of a name is a strength and a weakness for elite players of my generation with aspirations to coach at clubs where they made their name.

The advantage is the fast-tracking into such a position, and the sense of romance when they go back. Owners are seduced by a legend's reputation, ignoring candidates who may have worked their way up from the lower divisions, or academy football.

Lampard's replacement, Thomas Tuchel, started his coaching journey when his career was cut short aged 25. The hunger we had as youngsters to become star players by our mid-20s, coaches like Tuchel have in adulthood to become world-class managers by their mid-40s.

They are prepared to begin at the bottom, putting in the long shifts, absorbing the experience that makes them more technically qualified. What we were prepared to do as young footballers, they are prepared to do as coaches. Tuchel took his first coaching job aged 27.

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Chelsea is his fifth management post. He is only five years older than Frank, but as a manager he has a lifetime more experience. This is a man who has earned his chance, which makes some of the negativity I have read after one game in charge pretty embarrassing.

When comparing the CV of a retired legend and a coach like Tuchel, that is where the players I played with or against who want to be managers are disadvantaged. We could not think about beginning a coaching journey in our 20s.

And once retired, few elite players want or need to go back to the bottom of the football ladder. We've been there and done it as players to get to the top, and already feel we have made the necessary sacrifices, putting our career before family when pursuing club honours.


That means we have already acquired knowledge and skills which only those who have competed at the highest level can relate to. As players, we have graduated at the top football universities, understanding what is required to maximise performance for the sake of the team.

Going back to school to re-tune our minds to understand more about how to maximise team performance for the benefit of every individual requires a new skill-set and fresh motivation.

To be honest, most top players do not want to put that hard graft in anymore. Maybe it is a sense of entitlement. I say it is common sense. I know I am not alone when I say many of us have considered it and decided we do not need the hassle.

Knowing the sacrifices required to be at the very top of the game, it stands to reason only the most attractive jobs are going to entice a world-class footballer to risk his reputation in coaching.

So while many clubs are looking for the next Pep Guardiola transitioning immediately from changing-room to dugout, they and those they appoint do so at a risk. When you analyse Guardiola's coaching career he was mentally preparing himself for management for several years before he took the Barcelona job, studying the methods of other managers and, of course, working his way up from the 'B' level of Spanish football.

Even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose record at Manchester United many have compared to Lampard at Chelsea, is in his fifth managerial post having been a coach for 13 years.

I admire those like Lampard, Steven Gerrard and now Wayne Rooney who are so determined to succeed as coaches. Whatever ideals they had about how the game should be played going into their first job, they will absorb many new perspectives. They may see football differently in five or six years' time.

Everyone expects Gerrard to become Liverpool manager one day. The best time for that to happen is when he is at his most confident at the peak of his coaching capacity.

There is a danger of a knowledge drain if a generation of players opts against coaching, instead dedicating themselves to a media career. It is just as likely those who try management are so bruised by their first experience they will leave the game forever. Look at Gary Neville. His spell at Valencia means he is unlikely to have another go.

When Lampard lost his job this week, it saddened more than surprised me. I was always sceptical he would get longer than his predecessors at Chelsea.

Was he unlucky? Of course. He finished fourth and was top of his Champions League group. Losing the FA Cup final was, in retrospect, a massive blow, although I doubt even that would have saved him.

But he took the job from Maurizio Sarri who finished third and won the Europa League, and it's hard to criticise Roman Abramovich when his constant changes bring so many trophies. However, Lampard has shown that he is a very good manager in the making.

There is an added expectation on our greatest players that they must always succeed. We will only get the best from them as managers if, just like some of the finest coaches of all time, they are given the chance to recover after they have been deemed to fail.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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