As a player, Frank Lampard found trips to Goodison Park among the hardest matches in the English Premier League.
He’s back there as Everton’s latest manager and facing another tough assignment – awakening one of English football’s fallen giants.
Lampard was handed a second shot as a Premier League manager on Monday when he was hired as the replacement for Rafa Benitez, who was fired two weeks ago as the team plunged toward the relegation zone. He signed a 2½-year deal as Everton’s sixth full-time manager in the past six years.
Lampard’s short-term task? To keep Everton in England’s top division, where it has resided proudly since 1954.
The long-term task? To get Everton winning trophies again, something that has been beyond any of its managers for more than a quarter of a century.
“When I came to Goodison as a player, there was a feeling the crowd was on top of you, you could feel them and hear every single word,” Lampard said.
“The passion and support of the crowd can swing a game. With the competitive level of the Premier League and our position in the table, we certainly need that.”
Indeed. Everton is 16th in the 20-team league and only four points above the bottom three. With just one win in its past 14 league games, the team is firmly in a relegation battle.
In his only other managerial job at the highest stage in England, Lampard was trying to win the Premier League, not just stay in it.
Chelsea brought back its midfield great and record scorer as manager in 2019, even though Lampard had only a single season’s experience in management in the second division with Derby.
He achieved Champions League qualification in his first season at Stamford Bridge by securing a fourth-place finish in the Premier League, but was fired midway through last season – after 18 months in the job – with Chelsea in ninth place and its defensive record a particular concern.
More damning for Lampard was the fact his replacement – Thomas Tuchel – almost immediately got the best out of Chelsea’s expensively assembled squad and led the team to the Champions League title in May.
Still, Lampard has an aura about him that has attracted him to Everton’s ownership. Majority owner Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright both said how impressed they were by the 43-year-old Lampard during the recruitment process, which also included much-travelled Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira but not former Everton player Wayne Rooney, who declined the opportunity of an interview.
Lampard’s first game in charge will be on Saturday at home to Brentford in the fourth round of the FA Cup. That trophy was the last piece of major silverware won by Everton, in 1995. The last of its nine English league titles came in 1987.
“I want to see a team that are confident in possession, that can control games with possession, and be very exciting to watch at the top end of the pitch,” Lampard said. “We need to be a team that’s very active – crossing and getting shots on goal and staying in the other half of the pitch. When you don’t have the ball, you must be aggressive.
“And management is not just the tactical side – it’s how you make the squad and individuals feel. I will try to be myself, very personable and close to the players, and set up a team to play good football and win games.”
Lampard scored 211 goals for Chelsea from central midfield from 2001-14, during which he won every major honour at the club including three Premier Leagues and the Champions League. He hasn’t won a trophy as a manager, but that didn’t worry Moshiri.
“He has played at the very highest level of the game and has football in his blood,” Moshiri said, adding the club was “ready to give him all of our support as he looks to give the team an immediate boost.”
The Iranian businessman has spent nearly US$700-million on transfers since becoming Everton’s major shareholder in 2016, and this month injected another £100-million ($171-million), saying it demonstrates his commitment amid turbulent times at Goodison Park.
Lampard was hoping to spend more of Moshiri’s money in the final hours of the winter transfer window to bolster a squad for the remainder of a season that has been forgettable under Benitez, who was never truly accepted by Everton fans because of his previous links to Merseyside rival Liverpool.
At least Lampard doesn’t have that baggage as he starts his tenure at Goodison.