Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them, but Frank Lampard has been one of the select few footballers to have experienced greatness in all three chassis – an integral part of one of the finest teams of his generation in Chelsea, Lampard’s strong work ethic augmented his innate talent as he established himself as a consistent performer and a serial winner of trophies.
That the Englishman would dip his toes in the managerial pool was a given and not many were surprised when news broke out that Lampard would be taking charge of the Derby County. The Rams have been one of the mainstays of the English Championship this past decade, always on the cusp of promotion to the top division in the last five seasons, but usually failing at the final hurdle. With league finishes of 6th, 9th, 4th, 8th and 3rd in the previous five bygone seasons, financially struggling Derby will be hopeful that Lampard is able to guide them to the oasis that the Premier League is.
Like most other second division clubs, Derby’s managerial position comes with a revolving door policy, the club burning through as many as six managers since Mel Morris’ takeover in the summer of 2015. While promotion to the Premier League will be the ultimate goal for Lampard and Co, the club is also in dire need for stability, going through a rough financial patch and looking to cut costs across the ranks. A three-season contract for the Englishman suggests the Rams board isn’t looking for immediate success, a theory backed by Lampard’s refusal to promise of promotion in the first season itself. The 39-year-old, however, is well aware of how fickle football club executives can be.
Lampard, who is one of the nicer blokes in modern football, and his live television punditry has been commended from all quarters as well, but management is a completely different ball game, as Gary Neville found out with Valencia. Not only will Lampard be scrutinised for his tactical perspective and his modus operandi in the transfer market, his man-management will come under the scanner as well – most of his players at Derby will be a notch below the level of skills Lampard’s accustomed to working with and how he handles individual personalities all the while trying to progress a collective objective will shape up the kind of manager Frank Lampard is going to turn out into.
Lampard is no stranger to high-pressure situations, the Englishman accustomed to daunting circumstances during his career with Chelsea, but unlike his playing days, there is no safety net for managers. However, Lampard’s attention to detail and his methodical approach, supplemented with his stoic self-confidence, bodes well for Derby.
“Brutal is a strong word but you can’t go into management seeing it any other way. Decisions have to be made. I have been on the receiving end of managerial decisions, and I believe I have the strength to make decisions that are right for the team,” Lampard’s frankness in his first press conference was not only refreshing, but attuned to current times when formerly astute footballers like Zinedine Zidane and Gennaro Gattuso have taken up high-profile managerial positions with avant-garde approaches. Also, at some point in near future, Lampard would inevitably draw comparisons with Steven Gerrard who himself commences his managerial career with an even more complicated job at the Rangers FC in Scotland.
“I won't change the fighting spirit and it would be wrong for me to sit and say 'these are the changes I want to make'. I don't have a list as such, but I know about the players and I know the style of play I want. It will be an ongoing process. I'm not coming in here to fix something that is broken,” Lampard spoke confidently and Derby are definitely not broken. However, there is a lot to fix at Pride Park Stadium and that too on a strict budget. Lampard must also steer clear of the pitfalls formerly excellent footballers face while stepping into the manager’s realm, namely huge expectations and colossal scrutiny.
Derby’s tendency to stutter in the second half of the league campaign last season forced them off automatic promotion places, as defensive lapses cropped up on a regular basis. Just the four wins in their last sixteen Championship league fixtures dealt Derby a tough hand in the play-offs, which they eventually failed to navigate through.
Lampard will have the brilliant Jody Morris as his assistant manager, the former Chelsea youth academy manager’s continued success with the Young Blues in England and Europe already priming him for difficult jobs at the senior level. Lampard, who has completed his ‘UEFA-A’ coaching license, has already set his sights on the UEFA-Pro license, and the Derby job is a perfect stepping stone for the 39-year-old. The appointment does pose a huge risk for Derby due to Lampard’s inexperience, but it is also a gamble which could pay off huge dividends for the Championship club.
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Updated Date: Jun 03, 2018 16:20:24 IST