There are certain jobs in the sporting world that everybody would want, yet nobody would queue up for at the same time. Some roles are a poisoned chalice. Who would want to take over from some of the greatest managers in any sport – Sean Boylan, Brian Cody, Sir Alex Ferguson, Phil Jackson, the list could be endless.
Just to add a touch of the curve ball to an already tricky situation, often, those who are earmarked as the anointed chosen ones to assume such thrones see their scripts go skewiff spectacularly. In the early part of the 2000s, Colm O’Rourke and Trevor Giles – arguably the two best footballers Meath ever produced – managed the county U-21 team for a couple of years and never won a match.
Likewise, when David Moyes was stupidly dubbed the ‘Chosen One’ when replacing Fergie at Old Trafford, the whole thing backfired spectacularly. As good as he had been whilst in charge of Preston North End and Everton, going into what at that time was regarded as one of the greatest clubs was an entirely different kettle of fish. That is not to say he’s not good at what he does at his own level. Quite obviously he is as evidenced by the job he did at Deepdale and Goodison Park and is currently doing at West Ham.
Frank Lampard had seen enough Chelsea managers come and go to know the scorePhil McNulty – BBC Sport
Today, Frank Lampard surely understand. From the time he broke through at Upton Park it was obvious he was destined for a higher calling. That being to go on and become the best Chelsea player in the history of the club. What he achieved at Stamford Bridge personally and by extension enabled the club to get done meant, if he ever did venture into management, the most dynamite-laden dugout seat in football would surely one day be his.
He did go on what basically amounted two laps of honour at Manchester City and their New York franchise before – in a very pleasant surprise – he actually cut his teeth in big time management at Derby County. Doing a fine job at Pride Park too as it happens, guiding The Rams all the way to the Final of the Play Offs before succumbing.
Now, there are those who say if an offer comes in that looks too good to be turned down you can’t blame people for taking them. Such as the sickening continuing flow of young GAA talent to Australian Rules or young lads going from one soccer club to another chasing the dream. There’s another very pertinent example within the locality which could be called into question here but God help us, a few egg shells might trodden on.
I, however, would take a different view. Why not show a bit of loyalty to the people, places and circumstances that made an individual what they are. Money isn’t everything. Opportunities to be a professional sportsperson and work in that environment are obviously attractive, but the higher echelons of the GAA either can’t or don’t want to see that. Meath have already seen two of their brightest prospects in decades, Conor Nash and Cian McBride, lost to the bottom end of the world. How many more will the GAA have to see leave various counties before they get their heads out of their collective backsides and give young players – lads and ladies – some meaningful, worthwhile and real incentive to stay in Ireland and play our own games.
The thing is, for the handful of players that do make the cut Down Under or in top level soccer for that matter, there are the equivalent of several bus loads who end up back home as quickly as they departed these shores. My sole reason for mentioning all of the above was to emphasise how understandable it was that the Chelsea job would appeal to Lampard who was so venerated at the club.
Likewise, the attractiveness of bringing back somebody who was so productive for and beloved by the club is obvious. Said lure only bolstered further by the highly commendable job done by their former midfielder with the Championship team. In that sense, Frank was a victim of his own relative success.
Knowing Roman Abramovich and his business methods, better than most indeed, Frank should have known he was on borrowed time from the moment he took the job.
Is the way the ruthless Russian does business fair? No, but he’s obviously fairly at what he does. That still wouldn’t explain the club having had 10 different managers since he got control of the club. One of whom, Roberto Di Matteo was actually defenestrated DESPITE winning the Champions League.
Gut feeling is that it was just too much, too soon in his management career for Lampard and that he would in fact have been better off staying with Derby and putting a few more hours on his clock before moving into the managerial fast lane. It’s difficult not feel a small degree of disappointment for him, if only out of a sense that some of his players let him down badly.
That said, it’s hard to argue with Phil McNulty of BBC Sport’s summation that “Lampard had seen enough Chelsea managers come and go to know the score”. Even he, the London outfit’s record goalscorer and most iconised former star couldn’t escape the reality of the old maxim that ‘It’s nothing personal, just business’ and so joins the list of some of football’s biggest names, losing out in Roman’s roulette. Good luck Thomas Tuchel!