MATT BARLOW: Frank Lampard was biding his time but Everton role suits him well
Just over a year has passed since Frank Lampard woke up to an ominous text from Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck summoning him to the boardroom at Stamford Bridge.
His time as head coach of the club where he scored a record 211 goals was over. There was no attempt to deny his ego was bruised and he resisted the urge to dive right back in, but he always knew he’d be back in the game.
Lampard has spent most of the last 12 months on family life, with March-born son Freddie, as well as an occasional change as a TV pundit and a determination to continue his coaching education while digesting the lessons of his career so far.
Frank Lampard is set to win the battle to be named Everton’s new manager
Last summer there had been interest in the vacancy at Crystal Palace and an interview prior to the appointment of Patrick Vieira. There were strong links with Celtic, although that was never a realistic option. Lampard spoke vaguely of ‘flattering offers’ but was ready to wait for the right one.
Then there was an interview, which didn’t go well, in Norwich in November. Lampard was in Dubai and looked unprepared, unsure of the players, when they flew out to chat with him about taking over from Daniel Farke.
Left distinctly impressed, the Norwich board quickly turned their attention to Dean Smith, who was recently dismissed by Aston Villa.
Lampard’s reputation took a hit after he was sacked as Chelsea manager last January
Big clubs like Aston Villa and Newcastle have looked the other way (Villa manager Steven Gerrard pictured)
Once again, Lampard’s reputation took a hit. Big jobs at Newcastle and Villa came and went without him really entering the conversation. Over time, the positive things he achieved at Derby and Chelsea have faded a little further from memory.
At both clubs he had a positive impact and connected the fans to the team. Derby fans will never forget his feud with Leeds and a thrilling 4-2 win at Elland Road in the play-off.
The emotional return to Chelsea has also started well, with fast-paced and adventurous football the perfect antidote to a year under Maurizio Sarri, and a return to the Champions League despite a transfer ban, the sale of Eden Hazard and the complications of a three-way match. -month of interruption caused by the pandemic.
Lampard turned to academy graduates such as Mason Mount and Reece James, now established in the Stamford Bridge first team, and Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, who netted a combined fee of £60m when ‘they were sold to Italy. How would these gifted youngsters, now all with England caps, have evolved without him?
Chelsea had been top of the Premier League just 50 days before he was sacked and clearly he didn’t completely spoil things, although there were mistakes. He lost the trust of some key senior players and failed to maintain good lines of communication with the board. By the time he left, they were ninth and floundering.
Lampard’s Norwich interview felt ill-prepared as Dean Smith handed the job
He was also interviewed for the Crystal Palace job which was taken by Patrick Vieira
“Your pride takes a hit,” Lampard said sports mail columnist Jamie Redknapp in his first interview after leaving the bridge. “For the first week, I kept my head down, staying home, spending time with family. But the minute I walked out there were taxi drivers and Chelsea fans on the streets who gave me a real boost because of the way they were with me.
His legendary status remains intact and yet Chelsea’s instant success in his absence has not reflected well. Thomas Tuchel arrived and, within four months, had won the Champions League with the same group of players and moved up into the top four.
For some, this supported a theory that Lampard was wet behind his ears, making costly mistakes in an unforgiving environment as he learned his new trade, and that he would benefit from someone with more experience and savvy. tactics in his coaching staff, especially when it came to his in-game decision-making.
Although Tuchel is likely to sympathize with his predecessor after sampling his first full campaign in English football, looking for trophies on all fronts.
Likewise, the Derby crisis gave Lampard’s season at Pride Park a different complexion. The Rams are under administration, have deducted 21 points and are fighting to survive as they try to avoid relegation to League One.
The positive aspects of Lampard’s time at Derby and Chelsea were forgotten after he was sacked
Everton’s job would give him the chance to relaunch his managerial career with a side that have struggled this season
Owner Mel Morris broke the rules to provide managers like Lampard with a squad they couldn’t afford. There were loan signings such as Mount, Tomori and Harry Wilson, big spending to beat Championship rivals like Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott, and even a short-term deal to try Ashley Cole.
Yet Derby did not rise. They grew close but as soon as they lost to Villa in the play-off final at Wembley the cost-cutting began in earnest, with Morris delighted to pocket compensation from Chelsea, who lacked credible options to replace Sarri because of their difficult situation. with the transfer ban.
Lampard, 43, will be a wiser boss for all those experiences dealing with the egos of modern footballers in the dressing room and the extreme pressure of expectations of modern owners in the boardroom.
There is no preparation for it. Not even if you’re one of the greatest players of the Premier League era, born into a footballing family, with a contact book brimming with the biggest names in the game.
In a strange way, it might help to have a sacking on his record, freeing him from the privileges of those who claimed he was lucky enough to progress from the Championship to the Champions League without even a promotion to his name.
Lampard is set to take over for an Everton side that have endured a turbulent season
Vitor Pereira was expected to play Everton role before fans protested against him
“You’re not a manager until you’ve been sacked,” as Roy Hodgson told Lampard in a soothing conversation full of sage advice shortly after his Chelsea exit.
He’s smart enough and dedicated enough to absorb lessons and grow, and plans for changes to his coaching staff, with Jody Morris not expected to join him as an assistant when he takes his next job.
At Everton there is plenty of room for improvement, but without an unreasonable expectation of winning the Premier League.
Lampard, already suitably unpopular throughout the city of Liverpool, has a proven ability to make fans feel good about their team again with his profile, personality and passion for an attacking style of football.
This must be the immediate objective of Farhad Moshiri and his chaotic regime at Goodison Park.
The time has come for Lampard to return and Everton feel like a good choice for him.