It’s a classic movie cliché that, for every hero, there’s always a sidekick going along with them. Whether it’s Batman and Robin, Hans Solo and Chewbacca or Wallace and Gromit (ok, maybe discount that last one), the main character requires assistance to reach their overarching goal, whatever that may be. Football, though it may seem unrelated, is not far off of this, except for the fact rather than there being a duo leading the way, there’s usually at least 5 members of the backroom staff and instead of defeating the Galactic Empire, it’s about trying to win the league.
Perhaps the metaphor doesn’t work as well after all. Regardless, it’s clear that in order to have success, particularly in the world of football where every competitive edge you can gain over your opponents is like gold dust, you need a good team of like-minded (or not so like-minded) individuals around you.
For Frank Lampard, this philosophy has taken the form of 10 esteemed members who, by advising to the best of their ability, ensure that Chelsea have the best chance of success whenever they step out onto a football pitch.
Backroom Staff: Jody Morris
It’s probably best to start at the forefront of this chain of command, in that of Assistant Head Coach and 5 foot 5 midfield maestro, Jody Morris. The former Chelsea player made his breakthrough early on in his career, with his Premier League debut coming at just 17 years old, and perhaps it is testament to his fond memories of his time at the club in his youth, that he now aspires to bring through the next generation of academy graduates, despite preconceived notions of a lack of experience.
Morris returned to Cobham in 2013, beginning with the under-21s, then onto the under-18s where, from the 2016/17 season onwards, he was in charge of the squad. His success with this team is no secret, and the domination they showed in that first campaign was evident in their trophy haul, winning a treble including an FA Youth Cup, which the team would go on to claim for a fifth consecutive year, a joint-record run in the competition.
Following his unrivalled triumphs, the opportunity came for him to gain coaching experience in a professional league, with his boss and former teammate at the helm of Derby County. Their superb debut season saw them narrowly miss out on what would’ve been an unprecedented promotion, but as soon as the news broke of Lampard’s move to West London in the form of head coach, nobody was surprised when Jody Morris was revealed as his trusted No.2.
Joe Edwards and Chris Jones
Then comes two more assistant coaches, both of whom are English and have spent time in Chelsea’s esteemed academy. Joe Edwards, who played for the club in his youth, has been part of the youth team setup since 2004, before he was put in charge of the under-18s side for two seasons, with a certain Jody Morris acting as his assistant.
His knowledge of the scouting system is also an advantage for Frank Lampard, who can have confidence in Edwards that his judgement on those coming from the development squad, a team who he managed in the two years prior to Lampard’s arrival, is ingrained in his mind, having led them to an agonising second place in the UEFA Youth League, a feat which was matched again in the following campaign. Alongside him in the Stamford Bridge dugout nowadays is Chris Jones, an experienced coach who was working with the first-team squad on that fabled night in Munich in 2012. The former England under-19s and under-21s coach was another member of the Lampard and Morris endeavour at Derby, and seeing his quality, particularly in looking after squad fitness, the current Chelsea boss saw no other option but to bring him along as well.
Anthony Barry: The Newest Backroom Staff Member
The majority of Lampard’s current management was formed in July of 2019, when he returned to the club, but one person who was a notable addition this summer was that of Anthony Barry. A former player himself, the coach was nabbed from Wigan prior to the beginning of this season, and hailed by many fans as a defensive coach due to his record at his previous club who had kept 16 clean sheets in the Championship in 2019/20. He played mainly at lower levels himself but his mentoring wouldn’t show it as he has clearly made a difference this season, inspiring the team to defend more as a unit and ensuring the back four are far more in sync than they ever seemed to be last season.
Talking of the defence, it is often argued that the hardest position to play on the pitch is one in that very area, being that of goalkeeper. It requires an extraordinary amount of athleticism, as well as coordination and occasionally concentration due to the lack of action those between the sticks often face. Unfortunately for Kepa last season, it was rarely the case, with the then record signing enduring a torrid time in which he was even replaced by Willy Caballero who, no disrespect to him, is clearly not the sort of number one Frank Lampard is looking to utilise in the distant future.
Henrique Hilario has been at the club for many seasons now, under a multitude of different coaches after an eight year spell, spent largely as a backup, between 2006 and 2014. During that time, he played the role of understudy to the great Petr Cech, which clearly had an impact on the Portugese coach who, apart from Arrizabalaga, has helped a plethora of goalies from Thibaut Courtois to Jamie Cumming.
It left many scratching their heads then, when the Spaniard in net had such a lack of confidence when it came to many aspects of the job, especially as there was a second coach, James Russell, a former keeper himself, who attempted to get the best out of him too. It was in vain however, and the club had no choice but to search for alternatives, and the man who found him was yet another of those behind the scenes at Cobham.
Much has been made of Petr Cech’s return to the club, both in the time he has been there and in the last few days when he played in net for the development squad on Monday night. His true role though, is ‘Technical and Performance Advisor’, and while that title may seem rather vague, his responsibility is manifesting itself in a top level area, with the Champions League winning and ice hockey-loving 38 year old being seen with Marina Granovskaia on many occasions. The aforementioned alternative goalkeeper in Mendy was found at Cech’s former club, Rennes, and the team has benefitted greatly from his playing experience and his footballing knowledge that has allowed him to both mentor young players and advise the club’s direction as a whole.
Backroom Staff: Best of the Rest
There are two fitness coaches within the first team set-up and, save for a winger crisis in recent weeks, they have seemingly spared the Blues from any long-term injury problems in the team, unlike a certain club managed by a rather irate German individual. They are Matt Birnie and Will Tullett, both experienced in the academy and their importance cannot be understated, especially in a season where fixtures come thick and fast and infamous muscle injuries, often brought on by playing too much, are regularly loathed by so many Premier League clubs.
Of course, there are many components to such a well-oiled machine and I couldn’t possibly mention every member of the backroom staff, not least because I’m sure there are swathes of names who aren’t fortunate enough to get mentioned on official sites, but one man I do think is important to highlight is Carlo Cudicini. Another former Chelsea goalkeeper and a well-loved figure is now employed to oversee the development of loan players, (of which there are many), as well as being a club ambassador. He was usurped in his final few years by Petr Cech, but his relationship with both Frank Lampard and the fans themselves is an important feature and a reminder of the sense of unity now felt at the West London club.
That sense of belonging is striking at Chelsea, and a team spirit has enveloped the side, something I personally haven’t seen for some time, and I believe that is not just the work of Frank Lampard, though he must take credit for assembling those around him to do just that. Most have previous experience at the club, particularly in the academy, and their knowledge, along with their empathy for those at the younger levels, of whom they have seen many slip through the cracks in the past two decades, is now finally being used to its full, positive potential. They may not be serial winners yet, and some will never get the recognition they truly deserve, but the breadth of expertise that each of them bring to the table will only increase the world class assistance that Lampard has at his disposal.
The only downside is they don’t have lightsabers.
Written by Noah Robson (@noahr24_)
Edited by Rob Pratley