There was a feeling 18 months ago that Chelsea’s decision to hire Frank Lampard as head coach of the club was somewhat hasty. After all, the hierarchy at Stamford Bridge aren’t the kind to wait around and watch on as a manager gets stuck in a rut, and with just a year’s experience at Championship side Derby County under his belt, there was a real sense that Lampard’s time at Chelsea would end bitterly sooner rather than later.
It was a job that Lampard couldn’t say no to. As he embarked upon his managerial career at Derby in the 2018/19 season, it was inevitable that one day Chelsea’s leading goalscorer would take the Stamford Bridge hotseat. But in hindsight, whilst Frank himself will have no regrets on leaving the Rams for west London after just one season and a failed promotion attempt, it came too soon for the inexperienced manager, and we all should have known that the ever-demanding Roman Abramovich wasn’t going to let Lampard learn on the job.
Despite a trophyless season in his first 12 months at Stamford Bridge, there were positive signs. Amidst a transfer ban, Lampard guided the Blues to a fourth-place finish in the league, the knockout stages of the Champions League, albeit where they were thrashed by eventual winners Bayern Munich, and the FA Cup final, which ended in a bitter defeat to cross-city rivals Arsenal.
Abramovich gave Lampard his backing in the summer and loosened his purse strings, splashing over £250 million on the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell. But, with Chelsea falling out of favour in the Premier League betting markets as they dropped down the table rapidly and the German duo turning out to be expensive flops, Lampard was axed in January and former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel was sworn in.
The bad feeling that we had in our stomachs back in May 2019 when the pictures emerged on social media of a suited Frank Lampard holding aloft the Chelsea shirt rose to the forefront as the news broke early on January 25th that he had been sacked after a year-and-a-half, just one day after the Blues swept Luton Town to the wayside in the FA Cup fourth round.
The irony was that just 24 hours prior, as Chelsea hosted the Hatters in the cup, a banner was unveiled in the empty Stamford Bridge stands reading: ‘In Frank we trust. Then. Now. Forever.’
The sacking will be a huge blow for Lampard to recover from this early in his career, and when you look at the success his former teammate and good friend John Terry has had at Aston Villa, you can’t help but wonder what if 42-year-old went down the same route of becoming an assistant first before jumping straight into management.
The former Chelsea skipper has been learning the tricks of the trade under the experience of former Brentford boss Dean Smith at Villa Park for the last two-and-a-half years and it now feels like a transition into first team management is just around the corner for Terry.
At 40 years of age, some may say that ‘JT’ should have already tested the waters of management, but he’s in no rush to do so, and as he rides the waves of Premier League football in Smith’s passenger seat, there’s a feeling that Terry will be in good stead when he decides to take on a more senior role by himself.
A management job could be on the horizon for Terry very soon, as he is heavily linked with the Bournemouth job, and should he succeed wherever he ends up in the future, perhaps more ex-players will go down the assistant route before jumping into management, even if it is too late for Lampard!