Home » Chelsea FC » Frank Lampard reveals all to Jamie Redknapp on life as Chelsea manager

Frank Lampard, dripping with sweat, has just returned from his daily 45-minute post-training run around Chelsea's complex at Cobham with his assistants, Jody Morris and Chris Jones.

Waiting for him in reception is his cousin and Sportsmail columnist Jamie Redknapp.

These two go way back, from garden kickabouts, to celebrating a 19th birthday in Ayia Napa, to lining up for England together. But busy schedules make catch-ups difficult nowadays.

'Frankie!' says our man as they embrace. Over lunch in the players' canteen, then a cuppa in his office, Lampard opens up on Chelsea, playing the kids, his own upbringing, 'real' managers versus 'fake' ones, Europe and Jose Mourinho.

Oh, and the small matter of facing Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich in the next fortnight. Kieran Gill sat in on the family reunion.

JAMIE REDKNAPP: Look around this office, Frank. You could have become a pundit and judged other people's decisions. Instead you're here, calling the shots as manager of Chelsea Football Club. Why?

FRANK LAMPARD: I've got that drive. It's consuming, and it's hard. But am I enjoying it? I'm loving it. Derby was a strange one. I'd been flirting with coaching, knowing I wanted to do it but at the same time taking a breath. Then your dad (Harry Redknapp) rang, because of his connection with Mel Morris (the Derby owner).

I went to a meeting with Mel, quite tentative to be honest. Do I want this now? Is it right for me, for my family, career-wise? Could this be dangerous?

I knew I wanted to coach, but the pathway — and I realise that sounds corny — just appeared. I hope your dad knows the respect I have. Because whatever I do now in management, I will owe him and Mel a lot.

JR: Yeah but you stole that job off me, mate! So that went well, then this opportunity comes along. Were you hesitant? Nervous? Or did you not even think twice?

FL: Hesitant and nervous are definitely words I'd use, but I wanted it badly too. I do read, I do listen and I do take advice, and there were people telling me, 'Don't touch it', or 'It's too soon'. I understood all the arguments.

But the opportunity and what it meant to me as a former player who had been here for 13 years, I made the decision with my heart. My heart is Chelsea and I would be lying if I said when I took up management I didn't envisage being Chelsea manager some day. My head also looked at it and told me: 'It's early, but this is what I want to do.'

When I added everything up, it was a clear decision.

JR: Was there a sense of you putting your reputation at risk?

FL: As I got older, I cared less about that legacy. I don't mean to palm it off, I mean it in the opposite way. What I did in my career as a player, I will never lose that. I will never lose the Champions League, the team-mates, the fans, the celebrations. If some fans who sat through that and through this want to commentate in that way, or if new fans want to look at me only as a manager, so be it. What does it really matter? Otherwise I could have stayed away. But why would I stay away? In case it goes bad?

The story of Chelsea's season has been Lampard's use of kids, from Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount to Reece James and Tammy Abraham. When Lampard arrived, the club were operating under a transfer embargo and had seen Eden Hazard leave for Real Madrid. Only Norwich have handed more Premier League minutes to players aged 21 or younger.

JR: Did you feel forced into using the kids?

FL: Would Mason have gone on loan again this year? Possibly. Probably. Tomori definitely would. It was my decision to keep Tomori because I'd worked with him at Derby and loved his attitude.

I don't have to play Tammy — he has to show me why, of our three strikers, he deserves it. The ban forced my hand slightly but I knew the fans wanted to see young players. I knew how much the academy put into these players.

I'm not even talking about Mohamed Salah or Kevin De Bruyne — you mention them and you get an absolute headline. But there have been other academy players over the last 10 years who might have come through quicker.

The sweat, the tears, the hours that go into those prospects. Neil Bath and Jim Fraser, who have run the academy for years, put so much into it. The day we beat Wolves 5-2, Tomori got the first, Tammy scores three, then Mason scores. You want to ring them up and go, 'Can we have a few pints tonight, lads?'

JR: And a few more players, I bet! You've got to be brave to use kids though.

FL: I get that but there have been times when younger players could have got chances. I've got Billy Gilmour sitting on the bench. If we're 3-0 up, I'm bringing Billy on.

When we were leading at Hull in the FA Cup, I brought Billy on.

Only by training daily with us, coming on in games, playing against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, do you then gain their confidence.

This isn't an experiment of how many academy players can I get in. I know there has been talent coming through that could have got a chance. I'm going to try to do that but it can't be to the detriment of results. I know that. I'm not stupid.

Despite Chelsea's transfer ban being lifted, no signings were made last month, with a move for Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani falling through. Money for players will be made available in the summer — the fee for Hazard from Real can rise to £150 million — and attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech from Ajax is on his way. Meanwhile, Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned to full training last week.

JR: Nobody came in last month, but when you talk about Ruben, your eyes light up. Every time we faced each other, I'd think, 'Please stay there, Frank.' Then as soon as you went behind me, I'd know I was in trouble. You were the best ever at that. Can you add that to Ruben's game?

FL: From the conversations we've had, he wants it all. I remember watching Ruben score a hat-trick in the Europa League against BATE Borisov in October 2018. A couple were my kind of goals — six-yard box, bang. Nothing to shout about but I liked it. Ruben's never been a rack-up-numbers man but I'll definitely speak to him. Can he get 15, 20 goals in a season? He's got that in him.

JR: Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best right back in the world but talk to me about Reece James.

FL: I tried to get him on loan at Derby last January. His delivery is too good, and when I say 'too good', I'm joking but I mean that we need to read what he's doing. We need to get bodies in the box because that's a huge asset. He's a great kid who's going to be a huge player for Chelsea. Without getting too far ahead, even though Trent is that good he'll be challenging him.

JR: Callum Hudson-Odoi, too. He's 19! There's talent here.

FL: The one thing these players have over us from our era is that from the age of 10, they've been watching videos of themselves. They do studies: what are my weak points, my strong points? We had a whole video about wingers making the box going into Burnley last month. Then when Callum scores that tap-in, it's probably my favourite goal of the season.

Look at Raheem Sterling, Sadio Mane, Salah and ask why they are racking up numbers. If you want to play as a winger at a top club, you have to get goals.

JR: You're fourth in the Premier League. Be honest, at the start of the season, given everything that was working against you, would you have taken this position now?

FL: Yes, but after looking at all the games and how we played, I want more.

Redknapp's son Beau played for Chelsea's youngsters in a tournament last week, losing to Bayer Leverkusen in the semi-finals on penalties. One discussion between players' parents later that night was about what advice Lampard would offer their kids.

FL: Simply, you have to put in those extra hours if you want to maximise the player you can be.

JR: My dad always said you were the hardest-working young player he had ever seen. That's partly why he defended you so strongly at that West Ham fan forum in 1996!

You'd stay behind after training to do distance work and practise your strikes. Is that a rarity now? Do some kids get too much, too soon?

FL: They can do. The beauty of Chelsea's academy is they've always had a way of reminding them we're not like that here. Neil Bath sets the tone from the top.

If a kid trains with us then goes back and acts like he's better because he's been with the first team, he gets told.

The minute you think you've cracked it, it will hit you. We won't let people get ideas above their station.

JR: Hard work is key. Even before this interview, you've been for a run with your lieutenants.

FL: That's something that's become part of me, that I've relied on since I was 10 and running round the block with my dad.

I do it with my staff and we thrash things out. We talk about players, performances, where we see this week going, the games coming up. I find it a big release.

The calendar pinned to the wall in Lampard's office reminds him of a huge two weeks ahead — Manchester United on Monday, then Tottenham, then Bayern Munich. This run includes the return of Jose Mourinho to a ground where he once went unbeaten for 77 league games.

FL: Can we show we can take on these teams? I'm certainly up for it. United and Tottenham, they're on our tails. We had a difficult patch, we dropped points, so it was good to get away from each other, to recharge and reboot. Now let's go head-to-head with strong teams.

JR: You got one over on Jose in December, winning 2-0 away. You used a back three, which surprised everyone — it certainly surprised me after we sat down before that match in the Sky Sports Match Zone to talk tactics and we discussed your back four!

FL: As Jose said before that game, he wants to beat me and us as a club. I feel the same. We put in our best performance of the season at Tottenham. We will have to be at our best. When a Jose Mourinho team is slightly under pressure, that's when they can be at their most dangerous.

JR: So what did you learn from Jose and others you served under?

FL: Mourinho oozed self-confidence. Carlo Ancelotti came in with a calmer attitude, like a father figure, and I loved that side, too. Avram Grant was great for me. I'd lost my mum and he was amazing.

We've seen a few people who have tried to clone a manager — they wear the scarf, they talk the same way, they use the same phrases from the coaching courses. You have to have your own ideas.

JR: You'll know what to avoid doing from the times your managers upset you, too.

FL: There were moments when managers said things and I've walked out of his office or dressing -room and I was on my knees inside. You learn as much from that as the Jose Mourinho shower moment (when the Portuguese told him he was the best player in the world while Lampard was stark naked). Mind games? Different managers do it to different levels and again, it's about whether it's authentic or not. You've got to be real.

JR: I can't help notice we haven't been interrupted by any knocks. Is your door always open?

FL: I remember the first day I got to Derby. I was a fresh manager and I told them I had an open-door policy. 'Lads, come in.' But they all kept coming! It got to the first international break and I had the hump. So I said: 'Listen lads, the door is open but when you do come in, make sure you come loaded with good training sessions, performances, numbers. Bring me details that tell me why you should be playing, otherwise I'll shut the door.'

Then they stopped coming! That was a lesson for me. I thought I was doing what a manager should do.

Sometimes you see a player every day in training, say 'good morning', shake his hand. But you might not know anything about what is going on in his life.

It's not always about you having an open door. Sometimes, you have to go knock on their door. Maybe it's in the warm-up, go talk to him, make a joke, talk about Love Island.

You have to make sure you aren't being just a coach, but you're being a manager, a friend, and then sometimes a disciplinarian.