There is every chance there is going to be a new man (or woman) in the Chelsea dugout next season and it could well be a familiar face. Steve Holland, not Frank Lampard, is where the focus needs to be.
The odds are rather short on Maurizio Sarri taking the Juventus managerial vacancy and leaving Chelsea after only one season in charge. Opinion among Blues supporters is split as to whether the Italian was a success at Stamford Bridge, but if he does move on, it will trigger a familiar tale of events at the club. Sarri is already the 11th different man to serve as manager under Roman Abramovich since the Russian oligarch bought the club in 2003, an astonishing rate of turnover.
The Italian remains at the helm for now, but any speculation about his future will inevitably give rise to debate about the identity of his successor. One of the names that has been mentioned is Frank Lampard, the former midfielder whose performances for the club in the first decade of the Abramovich era have made him a Chelsea legend. The Blues’ all-time top scorer would certainly enjoy plenty of credit in the bank with supporters, just as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did at Manchester United when he was given the manager’s job full-time in March.
Lampard’s credentials for the role have been boosted by the job he has done with Derby County this season. In his first year as a manager, he took an underperforming club and guided them to the Championship play-off final, even if that did end in defeat to Aston Villa. He utilised his former club cleverly, bringing in the likes of Mason Mount on loan from Chelsea and striking a short-term deal for former team-mate Ashley Cole.
However, the romantic prospect of Lampard coming back to Stamford Bridge is one that ought to be met with caution by Chelsea supporters. Yes, he has had a good start to his career in management, but it is very early days for him yet and the job spec at Derby is very different to that of Chelsea. Even seasoned campaigners like Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho (all Champions League-winning managers), along with World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, were ruthlessly jettisoned by Abramovich. The owner is very unlikely to show any great sentiment towards Lampard’s history as a player if he struggles as the club’s manager.
If Chelsea are to go ‘back to the future’ with a successor for Sarri, the man they would be best advised to approach is Steve Holland. The current England assistant manager served in a similar role at Stamford Bridge for six years, working under as many managers in that time and being a rare fixture in the rapidly changing Chelsea furniture. He also served as the club’s reserve team manager, winning the league in his time in that role.
Whereas Lampard is still very young and inexperienced to be thrown into the managerial pressure cooker at Chelsea, Holland has patiently bided his time and has been involved in coaching in numerous capacities for more than 25 years. While Southgate is the public face of England’s dramatic post-Euro 2016 revival, you can be sure that he is grateful to have had Holland working under him every step of the way. Just like his boss, Holland comes across as a genial character whose personable nature quickly wins the respect and loyalty of players.
Lampard may appear to be the low-hanging fruit if Sarri leaves, but if Chelsea want a proven pair of hands who has done the rounds behind the scenes at the club and has hands-on experience working with a squad of players on six-figure wages, Holland should be their main man.