Is it ever enough to ‘know a club’?


When a former player of a club is unveiled as the new manager you can be certain to hear a few catchphrases during his first presser. Indeed, after he has finished smiling gleefully whilst holding up the official shirt to the photographers, this new manager will sit down with the press and rattle off some age-old quotes.

‘It was a no brainer when they asked me’ will be the first to come out followed up by, ‘a club of this size should be winning trophies.’ Last but not least, you will hear a phrase that seems to make little sense when it comes to possessing managerial acumen, but we hear it all the same: ‘I know the club well.’

As far as we are all aware, the direct correlation between knowing where the club car park is and masterminding a win on a Saturday has yet to be proven. But when Frank Lampard was appointed Chelsea boss in the summer of 2019, we heard this said a lot: ‘Lampard knows the club.’

In Frank’s case, this was repeated consistently to make up for the fact that he had done very little in his managerial career. The taking Derby to Wembley story is a misleading one, as hard as that may be for the Chelsea fans to hear. Lampard had a spine of Premier League and England internationals in a Championship side that only just scraped into the playoffs on the last day of the season after some dubious refereeing in front of a partisan Pride Park.

And as for beating Leeds at Elland Road, well, no one does capitulation quite like Leeds United and they did have 10 men. Marcelo Bielsa’s side had racked up a 6-1 aggregate against Derby before that bizarre evening in the middle of May last year.Naturally, Villa went on to beat Derby at Wembley but Frank had supposedly done enough to get the move to Stamford Bridge. When his record was put under the microscope, the fallback argument was that he – yes, you guessed it – ‘ knows the club.’

Such an overly simplistic rationale lets emotion get in the way of critical thinking, but it is not just a problem that Chelsea face, but rather the whole of world football. For instance, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in at Manchester United, the argument was that he knew the club better than Jose Mourinho

This was somehow justification for Mourinho’s sacking – a man that has won 22 trophies – for a former player that was in charge when Cardiff got relegated, but used to score goals and has a charming face.

If we were to look at in the cold light of day, United are yet to challenge for a trophy this season and are some way off the best odds in Premier League betting for a top-four finish.

Even if it is still early days, there’s no indication that just because Solskjaer knows the kitchen staff by name, he is the man to lead United to titles.

Now, Frank’s debut season has been a mixed affair but on the whole a lot more positive than his counterpart in the North West. Of course, there have been indications that he can cut it at the highest level and his management style seems to follow that of his playing career: meticulous and relentless in pursuit of winning.

Chelsea obviously still have one of the most expensive squads in the league. Despite all the talk of transfer embargos, it would be remiss to forget that the current Blues side is very talented.

That said, Lampard’s commitment to free-flowing attacking football has been a joy to watch and a much-needed breath of fresh air at Stamford Bridge. Lampard may have got the job on a bizarre whimsicality but he has grabbed it with both hands and describes another season in the hot seat.