Thursday 18 July 2019

'The myths are not all true' - Frank Lampard's insight into life at Chelsea suggests he can pull the right strings

Frank Lampard helped Chelsea to win the 2012 Champions League (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Frank Lampard helped Chelsea to win the 2012 Champions League (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

If experience is the glaring avoid on Frank Lampard's CV, maybe that issue can be erased from the discussion when the job in question is that of Chelsea manager.

It may seem like a bizarre statement when it is attached to a tactician boasting a solitary year of experience on the touchline and who has never tested his tactical knowledge at Premier League level, yet Lampard is no ordinary candidate for this specific role.

His brilliance as a Chelsea player and the lasting legacy he created as the club’s all-time record goalscorer will not help him if he becomes Blues boss now and while many have suggested he is not ready for the role just a year into his management career, Lampard’s emergence as favourite to succeed Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge is not down purely to sentiment.

If Lampard leaves his post as Derby boss and returns to Chelsea as their potential saviour in an hour of alarming need, this will be a timely change of direction for a club that has mastered the art of promoting instability during Roman Abramovich’s reign as owner.

The ruthless nature of Chelsea’s managerial hiring and firing since their Russian benefactor changed the face of the club for good following his arrival in 2003 has been hard to fathom at times, with serial trophy winners dispenses with in brutal fashion the moment the tide turned against them.

With 16 major trophies collected in Abramovich’s 16 years at the Chelsea helm, this has been a success story without parallel in English football over the same period and it has all been achieved amid an often chaotic background of player unrest, managerial changes and internal battles that would have undermined most clubs.

Somehow, what appears to be organised chaos has produced success for Chelsea and with so many outsiders succeeding in a job that has brought the game’s biggest names to their knees in a club structure that has been described a dysfunctional despite the relentless trophy success.

Unless Abramovich views his current stand-off with the UK authorities over his visa to enter the country as a reason to walk about from Chelsea, Lampard would be stepping into a well-drilled machine if he takes over at Stamford Bridge and unlike so many before him, he will have intimate knowledge of how cogs tick.

Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Sarri are rumoured to have struggled to work in harmony with Abramovich’s trusted transfer guru Marina Granovskaia during their spells as Chelsea manager, yet the next man to sit in the hot-seat will need little introduction to a woman who has been close to the Chelsea owner for many a year.

In fact, when Lampard sat down with the Independent.ie for an exclusive interview back in 2017, he told me that the perceptions around the club don't often reflect reality inside an inner circle that he has had access to.

"There are a lot of myths around Chelsea and how it works that are not all true," he told us in an interview at BT Sport studios in London.

"First of all, the idea that the players have the power to get the manager fired by talking to the owner is not true.

"At times, senior players have been asked for our opinion on how things may be going at the training ground, but the player power issue is not as big as many have suggested.

"There is a big link between the manager and the people behind the scenes, but Chelsea has a structure that has been successful in the last few years and managers coming in understand that.

"Also, the idea that the manager has limited input into the player recruitment is not true, from what I understand. Even if he doesn't have total control and no manager does any more by the way, he will have a lot of interaction with the Sporting Director or Marina.

"Whatever anyone says about Chelsea and the structure at the club, it has worked in terms of winning trophies and putting the club in a very different place compared to where it was when the owner came in.

"I went to Chelsea before Roman Abramovich arrived and you cannot compare what was there before to what it is now in terms of the stature of the club, the training ground and so much more. Chelsea is now known around the world and the owner can take a lot of the credit for that."

Articulate, authoritative and, most importantly, respected at all levels of the club, Lampard would arrive at Chelsea armed with far more knowledge that most who have taken on the role in recent years, with the presence of his assistant and ex-Blues midfielder Jody Morris likely to add to the appeal of the appointment.

With Chelsea currently operating under a transfer embargo imposed after thy infringed rules signing players, Lampard may be looking to dip into the club's youth team set-up to bolster his options and Morris is credited with building that structure during his four-year stint as the Blues academy director.

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Lampard and Cech could be set for a Stamford Bridge reunion (John Walton/PA)

Morris left Chelsea to link up with Lampard last summer and with his friend and former team-mate Petr Cech (above) confirmed as Chelsea's new technical and performance advisor, a set of individuals stepped could soon be assembled to ease the club through their current transfer impasse.

Appointing a manager with just one year of coaching experience proved to be a risk too far for Chelsea when they hired Andre Villas-Boas back in 2011, but Lampard is a very different candidate and that is why he may be the perfect appointment at this delicate moment for the club.

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