London: When Chelsea came calling Frank Lampard admits it was an “easy decision” to accept a caretaker manager role back at a club where he set records, won multiple trophies and was eventually sacked.
The 44-year-old was confirmed as the club’s interim manager on Thursday in the wake of Graham Potter’s dismissal - giving him an unexpected chance to reclaim the Stamford Bridge hotseat.
Lampard, who scored a record 211 goals in all competitions for the club and won 13 trophies as a player, was dismissed as manager in January 2021 after 84 games in charge and replaced by Thomas Tuchel.
But the soccer merry-go-round saw Tuchel sacked in September and then his replacement Potter parted ways last week with the London club 11th in the Premier League standings.
Steady the ship
Lampard has been tasked with stabilising the ship while the club’s co-controlling owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali choose a long-term appointment.
Whether or not Lampard himself becomes an option depends very much on what impact he has on a seriously under-performing squad that cost hundreds of millions of pounds to assemble but has won only 10 of 29 league games.
For Lampard, however, having the chance to return to what he described as “my club” was an offer he could not refuse.
“It was a pretty easy decision for me,” Lampard told reporters. “This is my club in terms of my playing career and having managed and coached here before.
“I’m delighted and thankful for the people that have given me that opportunity, I’m confident in myself, I have a good understanding of the squad, the training ground, the stadium and the fans. I’ll do my utmost to give them what they want.” Asked if the role could become permanent, Lampard said he “would not get ahead of himself” and was focussed only on impacting the squad in the best way possible.
“After that we’ll see what happens,” he added.
Since Chelsea’s change of ownership they have spent around 600 million pounds ($746 million) on players in two transfer windows and Lampard admits finding the right blend is a “big challenge”.
“Modern football has big squads and Chelsea is at the top end of that and I remember being here before I had lots of difficult decisions to make,” the former midfielder said.
“We don’t want to be 11th but that’s the reality. There is a lot of talent in this squad and I have a clear idea about what I want to achieve in this period.”
“The good thing for me is that everyone can have a clean slate right now and show in training what they can do.” Lampard begins his second stint in charge away at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, when one of his tasks will be to solve Chelsea’s goalscoring woes.
They have managed only 29 goals in 29 games.
“There is no genius answer for a coach to explain about scoring goals,” Lampard said. “Fortunately it was a big part of my game and I’m not comparing but it’s about understanding the mindset to be aggressive and cold-hearted to want to score.” While Chelsea’s hopes of challenging for a top-four finish are remote, they are still in the Champions League and face a quarter-final first leg away to holders Real Madrid next week.
Lampard was part of the team that won the Champions League in 2012 under then interim coach Roberto Di Matteo.
“Real Madrid’s a huge club and a fantastic team so I’m not going to start talking about semi-finals or finals. Of course I’m happy to be fighting in the competition again,” he said.