Audition day: All eyes will be on Frank Lampard at Wembley as Chelsea line up old hero

 

As far as techniques for fostering team spirit go, a session down the pub has long ranked highly in the management handbook. 



Still, in this era of GPS tracking and monitored sleep it was surprising, endearing even, to see Frank Lampard lead the celebrations and line up the drinks after Derby County had beaten Leeds United.

On their way out of Yorkshire Derby made a stop at The Kings Head in Duffield and footage emerged of Lampard revelling with his players in ‘the bounce’, a favourite chant of fans at Pride Park. (If you don’t jump up and down you’re accused of aligning with Nottingham Forest.) 

Then came the bar bill, totalling £2,802.30. It featured 38 shots of tequila, 90 pints of Moretti, and 75 Jaeger Bombs, amongst other things.  

Brian Clough, setter of standards for all Derby managers, might never have tasted the rudimentary Red Bull cocktail but he knew the value of marking an important victory together. Lampard picked up the tab.

‘The bar bill was funny, we had quite a few people from the club there,’ Lampard said.

‘If I had sneaked off without paying the bill it wouldn’t have been right, would it? The owner [Mel Morris] was there. But he shouldn’t have to pay it. The lads get decent bonuses if we win, so they can sort it out. I’m going to let the boys split it next time!’ 

He added: ‘Seriously, players should celebrate in their moment. People were talking about what it meant all week. They deserved it. But we were very quickly back down to earth. Over-celebration is bad and we had to realise that we had a final to prepare for.’ 

There has been ample time to sweat out the alcohol. By Monday it will be 12 days since that stirring victory at Elland Road and Lampard used the break to take his team to Portugal for warm-weather training. ‘I feel that worked out well,’ he said.

Despite this being Lampard’s first management job he has brought a streak of decisiveness. 

From the beginning of last summer, following his appointment in May, he was clear in how he wanted his team to play and acted quickly in the market, playing a personal role in bringing in loan signings Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea and Harry Wilson from Liverpool. He dealt with agents on deals for strikers Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott.

His strong selections in the cup competitions, with highlight wins over Manchester United and Southampton, generated momentum and his bold substitutions have often worked out.

On the final day, when a win over West Brom was essential, he sent on Mason Bennett and five minutes later the forward put Derby back in front. Lampard replaced Duane Holmes with Marriott before half-time at Leeds and within seconds he got the equaliser that shifted the tie.

Lampard was hugely emotional after that 4-2 result, having been the focus of a particular song from Leeds fans, and said the feeling equalled anything from his playing days.

‘Maybe winning the Champions League with Chelsea was on a par, I remember feeling particularly emotional because that was 10 years of us trying to win it,’ he said.

The detailed preparations he and assistant Jody Morris had put together paid off. ‘We gave everything for that game,’ Lampard added. ‘I saw Mauricio Pochettino crying on the pitch a couple of weeks before and I completely got it. I didn’t quite cry. But the moment got to me, I suppose.’

Chelsea are interested in bringing Lampard back to the club as manager should Maurizio Sarri depart and that is sure to add a further layer to Monday’s match against Aston Villa. The two possibilities for Derby as a club also look enormously different. Promotion could prompt a revival, failure will see a much-changed team.

‘If I could compare this game – with so much riding on it – to one during my career, it would be before Roman Abramovich came to Chelsea and we played Liverpool on the last day of the league season,’ Lampard said.

‘If we lost that match, the club was going to be in real trouble. If we won it, then things would change. We didn’t quite know how well they would change.’ 

He wants his players to rise to the occasion.

‘Finals can be tough, most of the ones I played in were a blur,’ he said.

‘The magic of Wembley is clear as you drive up to it. It’s the size of the stadium, it’s the sight of so many fans. It’s the way your belly will turn over. That stayed with me many times.

‘What you need is absolute concentration. If you don’t have that, you are in danger of coming away a loser – and no-one wants that feeling. It’s horrible.’

 


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