Sunday, July 21 2019

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Let’s be frank, it won’t be easy

Update: July, 11/2019 - 10:28

 

PUT YOUR SHIRT ON IT: Will Frank be as successful as Chelsea manager as he was a player for them? — AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

If you look hard enough in the vaults of YouTube, you will find a video from around 1996 of a young looking Harry Redknapp and an even younger looking Frank Lampard.

At the time, Redknapp was the manager of West Ham and was speaking at a question and answer session with disgruntled supporters.

One fan wasn’t too happy with the Hammer’s boss and let his feelings be known. He was particularly miffed at the decision to sell Matt Holland (Google him) and pick a teenage Lampard ahead of another midfielder, Scott Canham (Google him too).

In typical Redknapp fashion, no-nonsense Harry jumped to the defence of a rather embarrassed looking Lampard sat a few places to his right, who incidentally is also his nephew.

“He (Lampard) is good enough and he definitely will be good enough,” Redknapp said.

“He will go right to the very top. There aint (sic) no doubt about that in my opinion because he has got everything that’s needed to become a top class midfield player. 

“His attitude is first class, he’s got strength, he can play, he can pass it and he can score goals.”

Harry wasn’t wrong.

The following season Lampard played 42 times for West Ham, scoring on ten occasions. A few years later, he moved to Chelsea and went on to make 429 appearances finding the net no fewer than 147 times in 13 seasons. 

He has won the Premier League three times, the FA Cup four times, has two league cup medals and also won both the Champions and Europa Leagues.

This week, in one of the worst kept soccer secrets of the summer, Lampard was named manager of Chelsea.

As a player he was quite simply breathtaking. He was one of the greatest box-to-box midfielders of his generation. Hard-working, bags of energy, could read the game like a book and was an acute dead ball specialist.

The word legend is bandied about far too much in football but I’ve no hesitation using it to describe Lampard.

After hanging up his boots, he had a half-decent spell as manager of Derby County, narrowly missing out on promotion to the Premier League, and now he has been made manager of one of the most difficult clubs there to manage.

If you don’t believe me, ask Maurizio Sarri, or Antonio Conte, or Gus Hiddink, or Rafa Benitez, or Jose Mourinho. In fact, you can ask Jose twice. 

Lampard will be welcomed with open arms by the plastic flag–waving Chelsea faithful who will rightfully give him their full support.

Only time will tell if he will be a success but I do fear for Frank. He was an amazing player but as a manager, he has hardly proved himself at the top level.

Some may rightly point to the likes of Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane who were both superb players with Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, legends even, and then went on to become amazing managers.

For Frank to succeed, he needs support, and not just from the supporters.

He needs Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to not only have faith, but to have patience too. The Russian billionaire does have a habit of expecting immediate success for his investment and right now, that won’t happen at Chelsea.

Winning the Europa League last season wasn’t enough for Roman to keep the manager, and after Conte won the Premier League, he too was shown the door. 

Chelsea needs work. It doesn’t need a complete rebuild but after losing Eden Hazard to Real Madrid last month, they do need to make some mechanical adjustments to both the line-up and style of play.

Lampard needs to take what is already there and fine tune it into the well-oiled machine they are capable of becoming.

And if Frank is struggling with the mechanics, he can always call his former West Ham teammate Scott Canham, who was last seen working at a car repair company in Southend. — VNS

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