When the news came on Monday morning that Frank Lampard had been sacked as Chelsea manager, there were real feelings of loss for many fans.
Oddly enough, it seemed a shock, no doubt due to the state of denial among many and certainly among me. And then, unsurprisingly, the anger.
Was Lampard’s release premature? Yes. Was it deserved that Chelsea are only four points behind the top four with 19 games and are still in the FA Cup and Champions League? Absolutely not.
Should Lampard have given time to change Chelsea’s bad shape? Of course he should. And this isn’t just a short-sighted Chelsea supporter saying this. Most footballers, whether ex-players, experts or journalists, shared the same view.
And this wasn’t just due to the plethora of extenuating circumstances this season, like the expensive newcomers who took time to reunite with the team, the lack of training time between an intense game plan, all the problems surrounding COVID-19 and its limitations when playing in soulless, empty stadiums.
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There was undoubtedly a worrying loss of form, but as always, memories in football are very short. Chelsea were only top of the table six weeks ago after beating Leeds United 3-1.
To be honest, most of the supporters I know aren’t overly concerned about the loss of shape. But neither of us was happy about it.
However, we had finally bought into the supposedly long-term plan and accepted that there would be both ups and downs as Frank Lampard learns on the job. Any pain from childhood illnesses would be worth seeing the success of a legend at the club whom we revered as heroes and with whom we identified, especially if it meant integrating many talented youth players into the club.
As in politics, a few weeks is a long time in football.
What was more worrying than any loss of form are the stories that result from the unrest and discord among the players in the squad.
All the more so that some of the players who are supposed to be causing the problems are unable to tie Lampard’s shoelaces and more to the point, as most Chelsea fans could tell you, none of them are good enough to get into a Chelsea side with Lampard from around 2004 to 2013.
This backstabbing and briefing to the press was something Frank was trying to root out of the club by establishing a new culture based on solid principles, with academics imbued with it from a young age. It seems that Chelsea haven’t really moved away from the club’s toxicity since Mourinho’s season of palpable discord.
And then the hammer blow, delivered first through a tweet and then on Monday morning by Bruce Buck to Frank Lampard.
Many of us were upset, but not only at the thought of losing a man at the top who really has “us” and the club and who puts the interests of the club and our interests first.
It was also the loss of a dream. A dream that Chelsea had changed. That the strategy of changing managers like lightbulbs had gone down in history. A strategy that has no doubt contributed to a litany of the club’s underlying problems over the past five years. A strategy where dead weights and weights populate a bloated squad and linger like a bad smell.
It was also another nail in the coffin of the cherished emotional connection with the club, symbolized by the fact that Lampard and Jody Morris were at the helm. The culture and identity they represent and a hope for the union of management, players, supporters and club. One in which we, as supporters, are important stakeholders.
Many fans believe that it would have been much more difficult to get rid of Lampard if we had been at the stadium every week since March, the support for him would have been so loud and steadfast.
But now we are faced with the terrible reality check that the change in content mentioned by Lampard was just a pipe dream. Back to first place.
Roman Abramovich lost patience and pulled the trigger, reminding us that Chelsea football club is not a fan. it is sure to be, and in reality just an expensive move for a very rich man.
It’s a reminder that it’s stupid to have an emotional bond with a manager at Chelsea. They just won’t be around long enough and under the current regime, as disposable as the masks players wear in the stadium on match day in these COVID-19 times.
There is also a reminder that this is a very reckless club indeed. We may have believed that bringing Lampard back was part of a new era at Chelsea, but now we know that both Lampard and the fans were played.
As a manager, you’d have to be stupid to beat Chelsea’s poisoned goblet at the best of times, much less during a transfer ban and loss of top player Eden Hazard. Given Lampard’s emotional attachment to the club, he simply couldn’t resist the call, although he may not be ready for the scale of the task.
From the club’s point of view, it was a smart move after the toxicity of the “Sarri era”. Frank Lampard would be the balm to calm the followers. The fans would support him to the full in what is probably a very difficult season.
It now appears that Thomas Tuchel was the plan all along that was raised prior to the appointment of Maurizio Sarri. With results going in the wrong direction, the club took their first chance to get rid of Lampard and he was unceremoniously disposed of. See you soon Frank, thanks for the memories and here is your P45. Honestly, a shameful and inappropriate way of treating a club legend who has given this club more sweat and blood than anyone else in the boardroom.
But as Chelsea fans know only too well. At Chelsea, the mood doesn’t matter, and neither does the money. And the club blinked with the possibility of a loss of income due to the non-qualification for the Champions League next season.
In a season when COVID-19 has weighed heavily on revenue, they must get back the £ 220million spent last summer on recruiting players. Players who are more suited to Thomas Tuchel than Frank Lampard.
Failure at Chelsea is not an option.
Once the fans have had time to mourn the loss, they should well remember that despite any dislike for the way the club does things, they do what they do very well. With all the talk of the need for a philosophy and identity, Chelsea have had one all along for the past 16 years. It means winning trophies and nobody does it better.
Chelsea may be a case study of a club in need of support and we as fans may be victims of an abusive relationship, but we arguably have had more fun than fans at any other club in England since Roman bought it. And you just can’t argue with that.
So, goodbye and thanks a second time to Frank Lampard and Jody Morris and welcome, Thomas Tuchel, to the Chelsea madhouse.
After a somewhat unfavorable and understandably cautious start against the wolves on Wednesday, an impressive press conference followed by the likeable, intelligent and tactically clever German.
If Tuchel is as skilled and smart as we are told he will fully understand the chaotic, short-term, victorious, or fired nature of Chelsea. Supporters now know it is, and in truth we always have. Let’s hope Tommy Tuchel is having a good time here for all of us. It is unlikely that he will be here long.
Good luck boss!
David Chidgey is a board member of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust and presents the award-winning Chelsea FanCast every Monday and Friday on Acast, ITunes, Spotify or chelseafancast.com .