Frank Lampard is on the right track by ignoring the old-school route to managing at the top
The Weekend Dossier: Redknapp began his management career at Bournemouth with training held on whatever park pitch they could find
Frank Lampard revealed this week he wants to manage Chelsea, but only Chelsea, adding: "I know it might sound a bit big-headed or selfish but I wouldn't want to go through 'showing myself' with a lower club." There's something to discuss with Uncle Harry at the next family get-together.
Redknapp began his management career at Bournemouth where training was conducted on whatever park pitch they could find that had not been fertilised by the local canine population first. The Monday after beating Manchester United in the FA Cup Redknapp and his players used a council Astroturf pitch without permission. The groundsman locked them in.
Lampard's fellow European Cup winners Martin O'Neill and Paul Lambert began even lower down, their paths to managing Sunderland and Aston Villa began, respectively, at Grantham Town and Livingston.
Lampard's current manager, Roberto Di Matteo, started at Milton Keynes Dons. Indeed, most of Lampard's managers at club and country, from Carlo Ancelotti (Reggiana) and Claudio Ranieri (Vigo Lamezia) to Sven Goran Eriksson (Degerfors), began with small clubs outside the top flight.
All will argue the lessons they learnt in those early seasons, with the spotlight absent, proved invaluable when they climbed the managerial ladder. As Redknapp said later: "Bournemouth was a great grounding for me as a manager. Unlike some young bosses coming into the game with no background in coaching or management, I had to serve my apprenticeship." Furthermore, Redknapp survived losing his first two matches, against Lincoln City and Leyton Orient, 9-0 and 5-0, which he would not have done higher up.
So is Lampard being big-headed, or far-sighted? Should he ever discuss the subject with Redknapp he could mention Bobby Moore, England's World Cup-winning captain who Redknapp adored.
Moore began his managerial career at non-League Oxford City with Redknapp his assistant. It was a disaster. "I didn't know a single player at that level," recalled Redknapp in his autobiography. "I thought, 'What am I doing here, what is he doing here?' We were like fish out of water, neither of us could find the players."
Another former England captain, Gerry Francis, later a management success at Tottenham and QPR, has recalled how he failed at Exeter City because he was unable to adapt to players who could not do what he asked of them.
As a young player, Lampard learnt much from a loan spell at then lower-division Swansea City, but the game is now so different at the top level, how much use is a lower-league management apprenticeship?
At Chelsea, Lampard will never need to cut the grass as Barry Fry did at Barnet, paint the dressing rooms like Martin Ling at Orient, or clear the pitch of snow like Neil Warnock at Notts County. He will, though, need experience of handling a dressing room of millionaires and name recognition among the foreign players who now dominate English football.
Not that Lampard is likely to be appointed without an apprenticeship somewhere. Of the 20 Premier League managers only Roberto Mancini (Fiorentina), Arsène Wenger (Nancy) and Steve Clarke (West Bromwich Albion) made their managerial bows in the top flight.
Significantly, all three had worked as assistants first. More tellingly, for Lampard, only one of the 20, David Moyes, first experienced the top flight by being plucked from the Football League. The others all made their names outside England, won promotion from the Championship or, in Clarke's case, was a serial assistant.
Chairmen are reluctant to gamble on managers without Premier League experience or prefer to recruit from abroad, partly for the contacts and knowledge they have of cheaper foreign players, as Michael Laudrup has shown.
In theory, Lampard should follow the example of Paul Ince, who took on a lost cause at Macclesfield and turned it around, then confirmed his promise at Milton Keynes before joining Blackburn.
Ince shrewdly hired Ray Mathias, who knew lower league players, as his assistant, thereby avoiding the problems Moore and Francis had. But, at Blackburn, he struggled and the club panicked, firing him after a few months. Ince has since had two short periods at Milton Keynes and Notts County and his employment prospects look uncertain. Ince's Euro 96 team-mates Gareth Southgate, Stuart Pearce and Alan Shearer, started management in the top flight, but they not have been resounding successes either, so far.
Having turned himself from a decent player into a very good one largely by dint of his work ethic, Lampard has as good a chance as any but, as Uncle Harry can tell his nephew, there are no guarantees in this career. Lampard's best career move would probably be to follow Clarke's lead and work at the top level in a role that permits learning from the mistakes everyone makes, but not everyone survives.
1 Two shown the door while the window's still open
Three matches gone and there have already been two sackings – Andy Thorn at Coventry, who did not even lose a game, and John Sheridan, whose Chesterfield team had drawn two and lost a match they dominated at Wimbledon. Coventry's next manager will be their 11th in 11 years; unsurprisingly they are in their lowest position for a half-century. Chesterfield have not finished above 16th in League One since 1999 but Sheridan, their fifth manager since then, has won promotion and alleviated last season's relegation with a trip to Wembley. The speed with which some clubs lose patience nowadays beggars belief.
2 QPR squad choice will be unlucky for some
The Premier League clubs must name their 25-man squads on Tuesday and several well-known players will be omitted. The list will be most eagerly awaited at QPR, who now have more than 30 senior pros, many of them highly experienced and rather well paid. Quite how this is financed on an average gate of 16,000 only owner Tony Fernandes knows. At least Rangers fans hope he knows, for the spectre of Portsmouth looms.
3 Juventus woes show how Italian stock has fallen
Deadline day is madness but it does throw up some intriguing deals and gives the season a shot of adrenalin just as it seems to be bedding down. This week also underscored English football's status vis-a-vis Serie A. Who would have believed, two decades ago, that a Manchester United player would snub Juventus to go to Fulham, and the Old Lady of Turin would make do with a player Sunderland had rejected?
4 Fair Play to the lawyers, who look sure to cash in
As Manchester City splashed out again yesterday, battle lines were being drawn in the great spending war, with Uefa using the Champions League draw to stress that the governing body "will not hesitate to take action" against clubs flouting Financial Fair Play. Manchester United, who have much to gain from a policy which places earning power over owner investment, weighed in with support for FFP in the Premier League. But a survey by YouGov reveals 52 per cent of clubs believe FFP is too easy to circumvent. This one, to m'learned friends' glee, will run and run.
5 Potters rotters must be told to shut up
Stoke City's support is usually worthy of admiration, but booing Aaron Ramsey for the temerity to have his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross a couple of years ago is unworthy of any football supporter. The club should ask them to desist.
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