Chelsea Football Club is a microcosm of the state of the world today. While there are many things more important than football in life, it is sport that takes center stage at this moment. Frank Lampard has been sacked by the Blues and even during unprecedented times, political chaos and the managerial merry-go-round continue to prevail in SW6.
The board truly had us all fooled. I am not ashamed to admit it and you shouldn’t be either. The hierarchy at Chelsea seemingly brought in Lampard as a smokescreen and eventual scapegoat once Antonio Rudiger hit the fan—despite my disappointment at the moment, this is still a rated PG site, so I substituted the appropriate synonymous noun to complete the cliche—again. The culture around Cobham is as toxic an environment as any in the world. Chelsea has become a continuous cycle of power-hungry individuals vying for a crown with the brutality unmatched even by a particular HBO series. Lampard’s fate was sealed from the moment he signed the contract, but the events that have played out over the last few months portray the heartlessness of the business.
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When Chelsea named the legend as manager, it was looking to mend the broken relationship between the club and its fans after Maurizio Sarri’s tenure. Lampard’s appointment immediately slapped a band-aid over the wounds left behind by the previous administration. He reinvented what it meant to be a Blues fan in this day and age, making supporters proud of everything the club stands for. Lampard brought success to a team with no expectations, introduced some future stars to Stamford Bridge and managed with the same passion every time he stepped foot on the touchline.
Lampard came under fire from the moment he was hired as critics claimed he was punching above his own weight by taking over his beloved Chelsea. Regardless, the 42-year-old massively overachieved in his first campaign, leading the Blues to an FA Cup final and a top four finish. His side got off to a tremendous start—despite hardships—in his sophomore campaign. Chelsea went on an unbeaten run of 17 straight matches, climaxing when the west Londoners sat atop the league following a win over long-time rivals Leeds United on December 5. Although it seems like just yesterday Super Frankie Lampard was leading the Blues into a new era, the board knew this wasn’t the case.
Lampard’s three-year plan was never given the proper backing many of us believed it would. The moment Chelsea hit a rough patch, the tide turned and the young manager was on the outside looking in. The club chose to side with veterans like Kepa Arrizabalaga and Rudiger as opposed to Lampard, failed to provide the manager with a handful of his desired targets and had his replacement lined up before he’d even left office. The future appeared so bright at Chelsea, but all of it was for nothing as the decision makers returned to their old ways when the going got tough.
That’s business though.
It’s important to remember that football is and always will be a business before anything else. Lampard was never going to be given time if it meant the Blues could potentially miss out on the top four. We should have seen it coming, the warning signs were there. However, a majority of us were blinded by the prospect of Lampard leading Chelsea to glory for the next few decades.
It’s hard to imagine how Lampard felt driving to Stamford Bridge on Monday morning; it’s even tougher to think about him exiting the ground for the final time after being sacked by the club he cherishes most. Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow though is the fact for half of his time in charge, Lampard didn’t get to hear the support from the Blues faithful around the country. And for the second time in his Chelsea career, he won’t receive the proper send off he so deserves.
In the end, it’s the ability to separate emotions from business that lands savvy individuals like Marina Granovskaia and Petr Cech the jobs they have today. Sacking Lampard is undoubtedly one of the toughest emotional decisions Roman Abramovich has ever had to make—as seen by his first ever statement when letting go of a manager—but it’s one that was economically necessary.
As a supporter, it was difficult to wake up this morning and this will likely sting for the foreseeable future. Lampard is a larger than life figure around west London, he will be forever. However, nobody is safe from the brutality of business in the beautiful game.