#ThankYouFrank – In Frank We Trust: Then. Now. Forever.

Photo: Catherine Ivill / Getty Images.

On January 25th, 2021, Chelsea Football Club’s greatest ever player Frank Lampard, who had gone on to manage the club that he loves, was fired by the Chelsea FC board. The decision ended Lampard’s first stint as Chelsea FC Manager, which had started in June 2019. Lampard was fired halfway through his second season in charge following a disappointing run of form at the end of December. It was Lampard’s first real rough patch as Chelsea manager, and, frustratingly, the board did not give him the time he needed to turn things around.

Then: A Three-Year Plan

When Lampard was hired, it was with a three-year plan in place, and, make no mistake, for the vast majority of his time in charge Lampard’s time as Chelsea manager was a huge success story. When Lampard took over, Chelsea was suffering under a transfer ban, which made it impossible to bring in new players, and, at the very same time, their best player, Eden Hazard, left to join Real Madrid. Chelsea had looked to Frank Lampard, who had previously only been in charge for one full season at Derby County (where he was a success), to rebuild the team from the ground up. The Chelsea legend and fan-favorite would not be able to bring in new players, but, instead, he turned to the Academy to give Chelsea’s brightest talents the chance that previous managers had refused to give to its graduates.

Lampard stuck with Cesar Azpilicueta, who he had played with at the club, as club captain, and he promoted Chelsea talents Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, Reece James, and Billy Gilmour to the first team squad. Lampard had had Mount and Tomori on-loan at Derby, and the Academy graduates had a huge impact on his first stint as Chelsea manager. The first Premier League goal scored under Frank Lampard came from Mason Mount, who also scored the last Premier League goal for Lampard in January 2021, and Lampard eventually gave Mason Mount the captain’s armband for his last game in charge against Luton Town in the FA Cup.

The press doubted Lampard from day one, but Chelsea fans supported him through thick and thin like we had always done. Under the pressure of a transfer ban and the loss of the club’s biggest star, Lampard, in his first season in charge, took a Chelsea team led by Academy graduates to fourth place in the Premier League (thus qualifying for the Champions League) and an FA Cup final, and the team that knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League were Bayern Munich, who ended up as champions. Frank Lampard’s first season in charge was a huge success.

He did not get to complete his second season in charge, in spite of the fact that his status as manager and a club and football legend made the biggest stars in world football want to join the Pride of London again. Although he may not have personally signed or asked for all of the players that joined in the summer of 2020, it is obvious that talents such as Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, and Kai Havertz would not have been as eager to join if someone else had been in charge. Furthermore, although Chelsea was knocked out of the League Cup early, we went on a 17-game unbeaten streak in October and November. Lampard was building his team and its spine, and rivals were shaking in their boots. But, ultimately, a poor run of form and fringe players’ complaints led to him being let go prematurely. I believe wholeheartedly that the Chelsea FC board made the wrong decision.

Now: The Panic Button & Player Power

Chelsea Football Club should not have sacked Frank Lampard. For too long, Chelsea has had a terrible reputation of pressing the panic button and firing managers prematurely. Although Chelsea has enjoyed a lot of success in Roman Abramovich’s time as owner, it does not do the club any good to continue to treat their head coaches like this, and if this is how they treat a club legend, then no one will get the time they need to complete their projects.

On top of this, early reports from the press make it clear that the longstanding problem of player power at the club continues. When Conte was in charge, it is widely believed that Willian was one of the players who pushed him out. Early reports suggest that fringe players such as Antonio Rüdiger and Marcos Alonso, who had lost his place in the squad after he personally gave up on the team after having been substituted, may have had a hand in creating a difficult atmosphere at the club.

However, it must be said that, on January 26th, two Chelsea players defended Antonio Rüdiger on Social Media. Tammy Abraham spoke out on Twitter, supported Rüdiger, and said that the reports about the German defender, which, among other things, had suggested that he may have bullied Academy graduates, were ‘complete nonsense.’ Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta responded to Abraham’s tweet with blue hearts and a picture of Azpilicueta and Rüdiger, who some reports suggested may have clashed with the Chelsea captain, celebrating together. We probably will never know the whole story about the atmosphere in the dressing room, but, in any case, Chelsea has to stop letting fringe players have this much of a say in who gets to coach them.

Frank Lampard is a Chelsea legend like no other. No one has scored as many goals for the club as he has, he captained the club to a Champions League title, and he is synonymous with the club. He is the club and the club will forever be in his debt. However, they won’t just be in his debt for his contributions as a player. Because he did a lot of good in his first stint as Chelsea manager. He made it possible for Academy graduates to get playing time in the first team, and he has helped to create new Chelsea stars who can play here for the next five to ten years, if not more.

But Frank Lampard should have been given more time. He had proven that he was good enough for the job at hand, he had overachieved in his first season, he had rebuilt the club from the ground up, and he was well on his way to creating a new true Chelsea team spine with Mason Mount as its beating heart. Chelsea Football Club will forever be in Lampard’s debt, and I hope the club, and whoever takes over for Lampard, doesn’t ruin what he has built. The club must support the Academy and its graduates. Players such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Reece James have to be given the playing time that they need. Like Lampard said in his statement today, they are the future of this club.

Forever: Super Frankie Lampard

On a personal level, I have to say that my football heart has been shattered by the unacceptable decision that has been made by the board. I am disappointed, absolutely devastated, and I am also livid. I don’t believe this was the right time to do this, and I don’t believe the board did this in the right way. Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s greatest ever player (arguably our greatest legend), deserves a better send-off. Lampard deserved to be given the time he needed to turn things around. At the very least, he deserved to be able to finish the club’s three-year plan.

It saddens me that the club has made this decision, and I am extremely frustrated by the timing. Chelsea fans had just had a banner put up that supports Frank Lampard. A Chelsea fanzine had just addressed the board and made it clear that they wanted Lampard to remain in charge. Chelsea fans trust their greatest ever player, and we always would. Chelsea fans supported the project that he was working on, and we loved that our manager had the same passion for our club that we do. Furthermore, I think it was obvious for most people that he deserved to be given more time in charge. Make no mistake, if fans were actually allowed to attend games during this troubling pandemic, then we would now show our disapproval. We would continue to show that we support Frank Lampard. Chelsea fans will always support Frank Lampard.

When Lampard was hired, I tweeted the fact that I love football and Chelsea because of Frank Lampard. I was full of hope for the future of the club, and I was smiling from ear-to-ear. I will always love my club, but I am extremely disappointed by and frustrated with our board. Frank Lampard deserved better than this. I still hope that Frank Lampard will return as Chelsea head coach in the future. I want him to be our greatest manager, just like he is our greatest ever player. I will hope for his return forever. I will always be a fan. Super Frankie Lampard will always be a Chelsea Football Club legend. This will always be Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.

#ThankYouFrank – #InFrankWeTrust

Article Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.