John Terry insists no-one is better placed to galvanise Chelsea than his close friend Frank Lampard.
You would expect little else from the former Stamford Bridge favourite yet Terry’s view is not born out of blind loyalty to an old friend but an inside knowledge of the demands Lampard places on himself to succeed.
Furthermore he believes Lampard and assistant Jody Morris can convince prodigious young talents like Callum Hudson-Odoi that, perhaps for the first time in years, there is a clear pathway from Chelsea’s academy to the first team.
John Terry has backed his close friend and former team-mate Frank Lampard to succeed as manager of Chelsea as the former midfielder closes in on the top job at Stamford Bridge
The pair found themselves in opposing dug-out during last season’s Champions League final – Lampard was managing Derby County, while Terry was assistant manager at Aston Villa
‘After the season he has had with Derby and with Chelsea’s transfer ban in place, there is no-one better equipped than Frank to succeed at Chelsea. It is perfect timing for him and the club,’ Terry affirms.
‘Frank was under pressure to succeed at Chelsea the day he arrived from West Ham and he never hid from that. He revelled in it and went on to become Chelsea’s greatest-ever player.
‘What made him that player was his desire to drain every ounce out of his body and that of everyone around him in training. Then, when he was done, he’d go out and practice free-kicks and shooting on his own for another half-hour.
‘People would be amazed at his goal return but they just didn’t realise how much dedication was put into that and his whole game. He is just as exacting on himself now as a manager.’
During 22 years at Chelsea, Terry saw first-hand how owner Roman Abramovich could be ruthless in his quest for the right manager.
Terry and Lampard hoist the FA Cup together after Chelsea’s win over Everton in the 2009 final
Lampard impressed as Derby manager last season, taking them to the play-off final
No less than 13 men have been appointed since 2003 and there is a concern in some quarters that Lampard’s relative inexperience could prove a handicap.
It’s a notion Terry is quick to dismiss. As part of Aston Villa’s coaching team, he witnessed Lampard’s work close up last season, ultimately pipping Derby in the bid for promotion from the Championship.
‘I don’t believe there will be any trepidation from supporters. They love him,’ enthuses Terry. ‘Lamps is a legend and now is the right time for him to come home.
‘Roman is a successful businessman because he is so demanding but Frank will demand nothing less from himself.’
Indeed, Lampard’s hunger to ascend managerial peaks was the topic of conversation when the two friends got together for dinner on holiday in Portugal following the Wembley play-off final last month.
‘He would welcome that responsibility to make Chelsea more competitive and provide the stability the club has probably been lacking,’ says Terry.
‘He has the tactical knowledge, enthusiasm and will have the backing of the players and fans to prove what he can do.’
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has bowed to sentiment to appoint fan favourite Lampard
Terry was assistant manager to Dean Smith as they returned to the Premier League in May
One of Lampard’s prime tasks will be to convince Hudson-Odoi to ignore the overtures of Bayern Munich and sign a new contract.
‘You could see by the improvements made by Mason Mount at Derby last season that Frank will have an impact on young players and improve them,’ says Terry.
‘For some time, perhaps only myself and Ruben Loftus-Cheek had come through the academy to become regulars and that has probably left many young players questioning their future. Callum Hudson-Odoi will be assured he has a big role to play at Chelsea.
‘Having Frank in charge and the transfer ban will give young players throughout the academy belief that there is a genuine pathway into Chelsea’s first team.
‘Frank and Jody have tremendous knowledge of the youth set-up. I guarantee they will watch as many Under 23 and Under 18 matches at Chelsea as possible and open potential opportunities for the academy players. In fact I think it will be an exciting time to see what can happen.
‘Frank has always been a great communicator. In the dressing room we would have Didier Drogba or Michael Ballack or Petr Cech – they may have been big voices but they would listen to Frank.
Lampard’s arrival should mean more opportunities for youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi
Lampard aided the development of Chelsea loanee Mason Mount during his time at Derby
‘He would have this calm demeanour and way of delivering a message that would empower you and I’m positive he will have the same effect on these Chelsea players, whether young or older.
‘Sure, Chelsea have just lost one of the best players in the world in Eden Hazard; Liverpool and Manchester City have spent well but Frank will still inherit a talented squad and that will only be stronger for integrating some of the players who did well out on loan last season.’
Terry struggles to contain his excitement at the prospect of meeting up with his old ally on his own much anticipated return to Stamford Bridge this season.
‘December 4!’ He laughs. ‘It was the first fixture I looked for when they came out. I was already excited enough about going back to the Bridge.’
While taking the step into management remains Terry’s long-term ambition, the 38-year-old is more than happy learning the ropes off Villa boss Dean Smith for now.
‘I’ve seen the links with other jobs but I’m 100 per cent concentrated on Villa,’ says Terry. ‘I couldn’t have wished for a better manager to learn from than Dean.
Lampard’s crowning glory as a Chelsea player was winning the Champions League in 2012
‘The gaffer has a great knowledge of the game and I loved working and learning from him last season. He’s very inclusive with the coaching staff and he’s created an environment where everyone wants to improve. It’s infectious.
‘I help the lads with unit work or with individual sessions but their appetite to learn is excellent. I can be watching the game back afterwards thinking we need to improve on that when a player will text and say ”I wasn’t happy with that in the 58th minute, can we go over that on Monday?”
‘It’s a massive club with huge fan base and I just hope we can find our feet quickly in the Premier League and give a good account of ourselves.’