“When you feel like things aren’t going your way, you have to fight your way out. That’s football. I’ve been there many times as a player and now as a coach, and the only way I know of is to Work your way out and work hard.”
We’re sitting in the stands at Goodison Park and Everton boss Frank Lampard is in a determined mood.
Still feeling the frustration of the decisions that went against his side through Stanley Park at Anfield last weekend, Lampard is clear in his belief in the quality of this Everton side and confident they will turn things around before the end. of the season.
But at the same time, he knows that only hard work will get them where they want to be on the final day.
This mentality was a hallmark of his playing career and he wants it to be the hallmark of the teams he leads.
After this afternoon’s training session at the stadium – which was held in front of the club’s sponsors and partners – Lampard quickly returned to the pitch alone, Common lengths of the Goodison pitch. “I wouldn’t call them shuttles,” he laughs. “I was more like a snail!” But it’s the mindset that counts.
“We have to have a very strong conviction,” he says. “When times are tough in terms of results and position, it’s important that you stay positive and know what you can do here and maybe things will work in our favor. We have to keep working in that Sens.”
Things aren’t getting any easier for Everton. After that tough test at four-time chaser Liverpool, they host Chelsea this Sunday.
Of course, for Lampard the game has added significance, given all he has achieved as a Chelsea player and his season and a half in charge. It will be his first clash against them since being sacked in January 2021, having finished in the top four and the FA Cup final in his debut campaign.
Will this familiarity be an advantage? “I don’t know,” he smiles. “It means you understand their quality and how they play because I’ve worked with most players up close and seen the things they can do. Maybe that helps a bit – but I don’t. I can tell after the game if it works in practice.”
Undoubtedly, however, Lampard played an important role in the development of two of Chelsea’s most important players: Reece James and Mason Mount. He gave them both their senior debuts at Chelsea and they became key figures at the club.
Mount is Chelsea’s top scorer and assist provider this season, while Thomas Tuchel, speaking after the 1-1 draw at Man Utd on Thursday, reflected on what could have been this season if the standout right-back James hadn’t struggled with injuries this term.
Lampard’s pride in what the pair achieve is evident.
“They’re great guys, really, really talented boys,” he says. “Nice attitudes, each in their own way, and I’m very happy for them because I know how they are as guys.
“I have a close relationship with these two guys in particular and others I worked with there – Tammy [Abraham] went his own way, Billy Gilmour and Fikayo [Tomori] and it was a real pleasure to work with these players at the club.
“It’s great to see, I wish them very well in their careers and I have absolute certainty that they will succeed thanks to their way of being. Even if they have a lot of talent, they have a great desire to be the best players and they are already there now.”
Lampard has another young starlet in his ranks at Everton. The future of 21-year-old Anthony Gordon was unclear during his time under Carlo Ancelotti and a disappointing loan spell at Preston in the Championship. But he started 11 of Lampard’s 12 Premier League games in charge and showed the bite and drive the Evertonians were desperate to see at Anfield.
“I was really impressed,” said Lampard, when asked how local boy Gordon had risen to the challenge. “He’s becoming more of a man, more of a leader with every game, every day. His dedication and talent are enormous.
“His feeling for the club, passing it on at such a young age is something quite special. I love working with him, I love him as a player. There are things he wants to improve and he can improve and that’s absolutely normal in terms of development. But what he’s doing for us right now is an absolutely huge player.”
Gordon’s trajectory and where it might take him is interesting. In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Lampard compared Gordon’s mentality to Mount’s. The Chelsea midfielder is a few years older and is now an England regular.
His feeling for the club: to pass this at such a young age is something quite special. What he’s doing for us right now is an absolutely huge player for us.
So what must Gordon do to move up to this level in the future?
“Maybe a bit of end product,” says Lampard, referring to Gordon’s return of four goals and two assists this season.
“I would say that to his face and he would say that to me because he is so hungry to do well for the club. But when it comes to what he does, I can’t ask too much because he gives his all. He creates opportunities for us.
“Anyone watching the game [against Liverpool]he is up against one of the best right-backs in world football and everyone has seen the performance he has put in. Yes, that little end product but that’s completely normal, it will come naturally with development and the way it works.
Gordon has been with the club since he was 11 years old and Lampard is keen to harness that connection between the talented attacking midfielder and the fan base that will fill the stands we sit in for the important game with Chelsea.
But does this perilous situation put more pressure on Gordon, given his links with Everton? “Yeah but in a good way because he’s a smart boy,” Lampard said.
“It seems to me that he knows how to take it and it’s good to have players in your team who feel that way. That’s what you want. That’s why fans are drawn to theirs because that they feel like they are local guys who care so much and I feel the same way as the person who will be sitting here on Sunday.
“The fact that he conveys that on the pitch for us is a good thing.”
It looks like what happens inside this stadium will go a long way in determining Everton’s fate. After Chelsea, they have Brentford and Crystal Palace here. As Lampard says, they need to exploit that advantage at home – and ignite that fan base with the determination they show on the pitch.
“They’re an incredible fan base,” he says. “The support in this stadium, we feel it. We have to engage them, we have to play with an intensity and a focus and the basics that they absolutely and rightly expect. If we do that and they support us, they make it a very difficult place for people to come in. We have to use that, it’s as simple as that.
Lampard on the psychology of falling into the relegation zone
Everton’s defeat at Liverpool, coupled with Burnley’s victory earlier last Sunday, meant the Toffees fell into the Premier League relegation zone for the first time since December 2019. Ironically, on this occasion they beat Chelsea at home – and kicked off in poor form. for the visitors which led to Lampard being sacked by the London club.
But has being in the bottom three affected the mood in the Everton camp?
“I’m not sure,” says Lampard. “For me, it’s not because we understand our situation. It’s been very close since I’ve been at the club. It’s not easy to shoot that when you’re nearing the end of the season. reality is there anyway, whether we are one point, two points from the relegation zone or one or two points in. This situation is clear, we have to win games, we have to get points to stay in the league. To me, that just adds to the focus of what you need to do.”
Lampard on the tactical battle
How do Everton find a way to earn those three points against Chelsea on Sunday?
They recorded just 17 per cent possession at Liverpool and it was pointed out that Allan only managed one assist.
While Lampard will clearly want an improvement on those numbers, he says his side will once again have to bide their time without the ball – then strike when they do.
“Chelsea will have possession again,” he said. “We’re at home so we have to be patient up to that point because they want to lure you in with that possession and we have to be very smart with how we approach the game and understand that we have to be clinical in our times when we can attack or have possession.
“I think we did that pretty well at Liverpool, apart from the last bit, the last shot. Things didn’t go our way, I think we should have had a penalty, which was well documented, but we have to be clinical in both cases when we have our opportunities.”