Despite a successful first season, under any circumstances, Frank Lampard was sacked by Chelsea when their latest preferred manager became available. Thomas Tuchel lost his job when their own preferred choice, Mauricio Pochettino, was available and ready to take over. Pochettino wasn’t an option for Chelsea after his Tottenham history and Tuchel is a fashionable choice.
Roman Abramovich has made it a policy to appoint managers frequently and Lampard knew his time at Chelsea would be brief. He will get a second chance at Chelsea one day, possibly even to succeed Tuchel if he can make a success of his next job – so where will he end up?
These are my five suggestions, from most to least likely in my opinion.
Brighton and Hove Albion
As a Brighton fan myself, I can see this being the most likely change of direction when Brighton inevitably part ways with the dour, uninspiring and confused looking Graham Potter. Potter, seemingly disinterested in winning matches in favour of playing football which gets positive feedback from the media and fellow managers, will be given the full 2020/2021 season.
Chris Hughton before him was given two full seasons to progress the team. He lost his job as a result of the lack of progress in the second season and Potter may well find himself in the same position. With a win on the final day of last season, Brighton achieved a record Premier League points total which to date is the only feather in Potter’s cap.
One home league win during 2020 was Sunderland-esque and although Potter has finally chosen to give the team a chance of a clean sheet by replacing Maty Ryan (and somehow getting Arsenal to take him off our hands for the season), failure to improve during the second half of the season will see his position reviewed.
Brighton chairman Tony Bloom has a history and a preference for young, hungry coaches. His first managerial choice was Gus Poyet, fresh from assistant manager positions with Leeds and Swindon. When that bubble inevitably burst, it was Oscar Garcia’s turn. A young, hungry Spanish coach who had performed well in Israel.
When Oscar resigned, as is his annual tradition at most clubs, it was time for Sami Hyypia who had performed poorly with Bayer Leverkusen. Hyypia was a failure (although he can reasonably point to the recruitment of very poor footballers and the generally weak squad he had to work with) but despite his strange tactics and failure to win (despite picking up a comfortable 2-0 win at Elland Road) frequently, Bloom would not fire him.
There was a pre-Christmas 1-0 defeat at home to Millwall which was tragic and generally sad – Hyypia spent the whole match on the touchline in the pouring rain, desperately pleading with his players to perform. He was tactically out-thought by Ian Holloway (no, really) and Hyypia inevitably resigned.
He was replaced by Chris Hughton, the sole exception to the Bloom tradition of appointing a hungry young coach with a fresh outlook on the game. Hughton wasn’t that, he was the man to keep Brighton up and then he was a roaring success in his four full seasons as manager. Graham Potter is the latest keen young manager with a fresh outlook to take the helm, but Lampard also fits the bill and his availability will give many chairmen a decision to make.
Brendan Rodgers took the Celtic job after leaving Liverpool with his reputation diminished. He needed a club which had not performed as expected, but with the resources and the capacity to do so and quickly. Celtic is the ideal choice in this regard.
A two team league and with the other team having a manager with his eye on a bigger club, it might be the ideal time for Lampard to step into the Celtic job and model the team in his image. He would likely get to manage in the Champions League qualification stage, and then the Europa League group stage so he could still get European football to mask the away trips to Kilmarnock and St Mirren.
It would also give him a chance to renew his rivalry with Steven Gerrard (which might be a media obsession, rather than an actual reality at this stage – but would certainly be real if he managed Celtic against Gerrard’s Rangers). Gerrard has the squad and the title in hand this season and most likely will be at Rangers for another year or two, waiting either for Klopp to leave Liverpool or Potter to leave Brighton – enabling Gerrard to make the next step in his career.
At which point, Lampard will find himself in the position Gerrard was when Rodgers left Celtic. The pendulum will resume swinging between Celtic and Rangers for Scottish dominance for decades to come, right now it’s in Rangers’ favour but it will swing back again. Lampard might be the man to renew Celtic’s position at the top of Scottish football, because Neil Lennon certainly isn’t capable of doing so.
- Newcastle United
If Newcastle’s takeover is ever completed, their new owners will be wanting a new manager to come in and replace Steve Bruce, and his entire coaching staff of fellow Steve’s (Agnew, Smith, Clemence and Harper – plus Chief Scout Steve Nickson). Frank Lampard would be something of a statement appointment for the club, a brilliant player in his day and hopefully somebody who will get his Newcastle team playing attacking football.
Despite the media approval of Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle team, they haven’t been an attacking Premier League team since Kevin Keegan’s sad departure the second time. Pardew had a good season after remarkable recruitment saw Demba Ba, Johan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse assemble to fire them to a 5th place finish against all the odds.
Otherwise, Newcastle have been poor for a long time and haven’t won a major trophy for decades. They have picked up two Championship titles under Mike Ashley’s ownership, but the ambitions for the next owners will be higher. Whether the fans would take to Lampard or not is another matter – but it’s a realistic club choice for Lampard.
Valencia are having a terrible season (again) in Spain. Former Watford manager (that’s not a phrase which has much meaning, based on the turnover at that club!) Javi Gracia is the latest manager waiting to be fired at the club. The squad is decent without being brilliant, so there is something for the next manager to work with and the club itself is a big enough club to appeal to someone who has most recently worked at Chelsea.
The squad boasts Eliaquim Mangala (one of the many incredibly expensive defenders signed and dumped by Manchester City), Gabriel Paulista (of Arsenal fame) and Denis Cheryshev (who once had Real Madrid disqualified from the Copa del Rey as he was ineligible at the time they played him).
Otherwise, it’s a squad bereft of big name players and in need of a(nother) fresh broom to sweep through the squad. It might be Chelsea’s best chance of getting confused midfielder playing in goal, Kepa Arrizabalaga, off their books with a nice loan spell back to Spain. It’s inevitable, so why not to Lampard’s Valencia?
The obvious downside to this suggestion is that managing Valencia would require moving home, which may or may not be something he is prepared to do. Valencia are owned by Peter Lim, a good friend of Gary Neville and the Class of ’92 who own Salford City. Such a good friend that he appointed Neville as manager, with his brother Phil as the assistant. Maybe it’s time to try again with an old English playing legend?
- Manchester City
Having played for the club, it would make speculation-logic sense to return as manager. He’s done it once already, afterall! Pep Guardiola has already stayed as Manchester City manager longer than he’s stayed anywhere else. He must be getting to a point where he’s ready to move on and go be a jackdaw for shiny trophies in another country (would Juventus fire legendary player Andrea Pirlo in order to appoint Pep? Yes, yes they would).
Replacing Guardiola will be incredibly difficult and they will need to hire someone who can hit the ground running. Arguably, that rules out Lampard but the owners might want someone they’ve hired before. Patrick Vieira left one of their other franchises to take over at Nice with the intention of getting experience to one day succeed Guardiola.
It didn’t work, he left Nice after a run of five straight defeats – so it would seem unlikely that he’ll be in the frame. Appointing Lampard as Guardiola’s replacement would be a surprise, and incredibly unlikely – but I’ve been wrong so frequently in the last 33 years that it’s worth putting on the list, just in case it happens and I look like an absolute genius.