Yokohama: Chelsea legend Frank Lampard said on Tuesday he won’t be looking backwards as he takes on possibly the biggest challenge of his career: managing his former team.
Speaking in Japan where the Blues are playing two friendlies, Lampard said he was “very happy” with his squad but expects to work the team hard during the pre-season.
I don’t care about age, I just care about performance and how people train and play. Now it is up to those young players to show what they can do.
“For me the story is not to look backwards,” said Lampard, whose return to his former club as head coach was confirmed earlier this month.
“I know the club very well, I know the players very well. I have my own way that I want to work with the players,” he told reporters in Yokohama, where Chelsea will face Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale on July 19.
Lampard acknowledged taking on leadership of the Blues will be a major undertaking, with Chelsea having lost their best player of recent times, Eden Hazard, to Real Madrid last month, and serving a two-window transfer ban that prevents him from making new signings.
But he said there was no reason to dwell on the ban.
“I think I inherited very good players. We cannot bring in any players we know that... But I’m very happy with the squad.”
Lampard will be assisted at Stamford Bridge by former academy coach Jody Morris and the pair are expected to utilise many of the players who have flourished in Chelsea’s youth teams and are on loan to other clubs.
Lampard worked with midfielder Mason Mount while he was on loan at Derby County last season and the 20-year-old signed a new five-year contract on Monday.
Mount, along with striker Tammy Abraham and midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, have Chelsea fans salivating at the prospect of a young, English core prospering under Lampard.
However, Lampard, who made 648 appearances for Chelsea and scored a club record 211 goals between 2001-2014, warned his young players that the hard work has just started.
“Now we have a batch of them that are fighting to get into the first team,” Lampard said of his young players.
“But, to be clear, they now have to make the difference. It is a road, a pathway, that is given to them and now they have to be the ones that play well enough to get into the team.
“I don’t care about age, I just care about performance and how people train and play. Now it is up to those young players to show what they can do.”
Lampard will also rely on World Cup winning French midfielder N’Golo Kante to bring energy and experience to his Chelsea side.
Kante picked up an injury towards the end of last season but Lampard was confident the 28-year-old will be fit for Chelsea’s league opener against Manchester United on August 11.
“My job now is to work hard in pre-season with them. I like my teams to play with a lot of energy and speed, with and without the ball, so I want to win it back as quickly as we can,” he said.
Chelsea’s new $72 million (Dh264.4 million) signing, Christian Pulisic, is listed as one of the team members visiting Japan, but it was not year clear when he will arrive.
Lampard declined to reveal the line-up for the two friendlies on Chelsea’s calender, which include a much-anticipated face-off against Barcelona on July 23.
American international Pulisic signed a five-and-a-half year contract with Chelsea in January but was immediately loaned back to Germany to finish the season at Borussia Dortmund.