Thoughts of Chelsea past return as Frank Lampard faces up to saving Everton’s future

There has been plenty of respect shown between Lampard and Thomas Tuchel ahead of their first encounter, as the threat of relegation hangs over Goodison Park

Richard Jolly
Senior Football Correspondent
Saturday 30 April 2022 10:26
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Tuchel looking forward to meeting Chelsea legend Lampard for the first time

Perhaps it is not the normal reaction of a sacked manager, especially when his successor is unveiled so quickly to indicate that talks took place before his reign was brought to an end. But when Frank Lampard was stripped of his dream job and Chelsea instead appointed Thomas Tuchel, the Englishman knew what to do.

“I just sent a message to him to wish him good luck,” Lampard revealed. “I felt it was important because these things get blown up on the outside. Rightly so because everyone loves this game and managerial change at Chelsea is huge news. But some things are just normal and about being a bloke and a person who has moved on to a new job and into your position and Chelsea is a club that is always going to be very close to me. I am genuinely happy for him because some of my staff continue to work under him and I hear he is a gentleman.”

The gesture was appreciated. “He sent me a very kind, respectful message after I took over at Chelsea,” recalled Tuchel. “That meant a lot. I was very happy when he wrote me that message and it was very gentlemanly.” The German had expressed a desire to have lunch together. But each is a busy man and, when they face each other at Goodison Park on Sunday, it will be a first encounter in life as well as in football. “I would love to meet him,” Tuchel said. For Lampard a first reunion with Chelsea, the club that defined him and then dismissed him, will be an introduction to Tuchel.

They can seem opposites, the career coach whose playing career was undistinguished and the man whose body of work on the pitch for Chelsea – captaining them to a Champions League final win, scoring in another Champions League final, winning three Premier Leagues and 13 trophies, playing 648 games and delivering a club-record 211 goals from midfield – is such that he ranks as arguably their greatest player. “I was a huge fan of him as a player and he is and will remain a legend at our club and this is a given,” said the German.

One school of thought is that Tuchel represents an indictment of Lampard the manager, taking over a team his predecessor left in ninth and making them Champions League winners in little more than four months, reshaping them in a 3-4-3 formation he devised on the plane over from France, rejuvenating Antonio Rudiger and conjuring a European final winner from Kai Havertz, who had seemed a conundrum that defeated the other manager who signed him. Tuchel tightened up the defence while displaying a golden touch tactically.

Yet Tuchel has always been ready to recognise that Lampard left a platform. The 43-year-old certainly does not style himself a Champions League-winning manager – “the credit is completely his, you win a competition and it is yours so I would never ever take that claim; he is a fantastic coach and has taken the club forwards,” he said – but he gave austerity-era Chelsea a top-four finish which assumed greater significance a year later.

Tuchel lifted the Champions League just months after replacing Lampard

“When I was working in year one, probably the expectations were… not so much mid-table but we lost Eden Hazard, the biggest player in the club’s recent history, and we were going to develop kids,” Lampard said, reflecting on a season when Chelsea served a transfer ban. “We got into the Champions League, which was a big plus for the club, we got through our Champions League group and then it didn’t work out for me; that is old news for me now.”

But when Chelsea won the Champions League, he reflected on the role of his signings: Havertz, the final scorer; Ben Chilwell, who he pushed for; Edouard Mendy, who conceded just two goals in seven knockout games, who Lampard deemed infinitely preferable to Kepa Arrizabalaga. There were Thiago Silva and Timo Werner in the starting 11 in the final, too, plus two others he gave Chelsea debuts, in Reece James and Mason Mount. Only one manager in the Roman Abramovich era really trusted in youth: Lampard.

Mount is evidence of Lampard’s good work at Stamford Bridge

Mount was a particular project: within three years of being afforded his Championship bow by Lampard, while on loan at Derby, he was starting the final of Euro 2020 after setting up the goal that decided the Champions League. In between, Lampard shrugged off criticism from Jose Mourinho to plunge Mount into the Premier League as a No. 10 away at Old Trafford. His rise was remarkable but he needed a champion. “It is all to do with Mason but I will take pride in it, for sure,” Lampard said. “The first thing that strikes you is his application and dedication and in that sense he reminded me of myself.”

There was no need for false modesty there: Lampard was a master of self-improvement, mentality powering his progress to the point where he was runner-up in the Ballon d’Or. Mount’s professionalism was apparent as Lampard’s reign unravelled: he was alone in excelling in his last league game, a 2-0 defeat at Leicester. He captained Chelsea in his final match, against Luton. Now Everton’s Anthony Gordon reminds him of Mount. “He has one of the greatest attitudes I have seen in the game,” he said.

Everton require a similar determination. They are threatened with a first relegation in 71 years, Lampard with a low to compare with his sacking at Stamford Bridge. “Chelsea is always a big part of my life after 13 years as a player and 18 months as a manager,” he said. Life there entailed part of Champions League-winning campaigns as midfielder and manager. Life at Everton could involve a drop into the Championship.

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