Frank Lampard says he ‘loved’ his time at Derby County after he was this morning appointed as Chelsea’s new Head Coach.
Lampard, 41, enjoyed a 13-month spell as the Rams’ manager following his appointment on 31st May 2018.
Upon his arrival at Pride Park Stadium, Lampard was making the step into management for the first time after a glittering playing career.
His single season in the hotseat was a memorable one and typified the highs and lows of football management.
There were highs with some great results and moments, but also disappointments too along the way.
Derby reached the Sky Bet Championship’s Play-Off Final, tasting defeat to Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium, after finishing sixth in the table – while they also enjoyed runs in both the Carabao and FA Cups.
Lampard admits that it was a tough decision to end his time with the Rams, with the pull of returning to the club where he enjoyed unrivalled success too good to turn down.
He told RamsTV: “It was a tough decision (to leave) because of the time that I had in Derby and there were lots of reasons why it was a tough decision.
“The opportunity that Mel Morris gave me to step into management and the faith he placed in me and the welcome I had from everyone, including the fans.
“As well as that, there was also the time I had in Derby and the success we had through the season, although we fell at the final hurdle. I think from where we were at the start to the end, I felt we had something good going.
“I loved my time at Derby but the reality is that the Chelsea job was the one job that would give me the very difficult decision.”
He added: “I had a long career at Chelsea and I think people understand the link and feeling I have for the club.
“I certainly wish Derby County well and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to manage the club. I will always have a feeling for the club because they made me so welcome.
“I am honoured and privileged to have managed a club with great tradition and I grew up very aware of Derby County. When I was offered the opportunity, I knew what a big deal it was for me. I come out of it at the other end, albeit just a year later, having met some great people.”
Lampard says he looks back on the work that he and his staff put in during the 2018/19 season with satisfaction.
While Derby finished in sixth place, the same as in the previous campaign, Lampard made a number of changes to the squad.
He brought down the Rams’ average age and also changed the side’s style of play.
He said: “I am happy with work we did and everyone, not just the staff, worked hard.
“The warmth of the people that work behind the scenes at the club created an environment, certainly for me, that was great to work in.
“On the pitch it was clear from when I first arrived at the club that the age of the team needed to be looked at. We had to try and bring through younger players, and recruit them too, and on top of that we wanted to change the style of play quite a lot too.
“There were a lot of challenges through the season but when I look back and see people like Jayden Bogle make the impact he did, given he hadn’t played a single game a year ago, it makes me happy.”
Lampard was also keen to stress that while the average age of the squad needed to be reduced, the senior players within the dressing room were hugely influential.
He said: “It wasn’t just about the young players.
“The likes of Richard Keogh, Craig Bryson, David Nugent and Bradley Johnson were people and characters with experience that I relied heavily on.
“I was fortunate to have a nice balance and we had a really good spirit within the team too. I wish them all well because there’s a lot of good players there.”
Lampard was also keen to thank Executive Chairman Mel Morris CBE for his support.
The pair built up a strong relationship and Lampard expects that to continue in the future.
He said: “I have to talk about Mel Morris as the owner. He was brilliant with me from day one and we will be friends for a long time.
“He is an incredible leader of the club and a leader full stop. I came away having made a lot of friends and living in a great city for a year.
“I have huge respect. I would love to go back and watch games, if invited, or see some old friends again in the future.”