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‘I don’t see why I can’t go on until I’m 38


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'I don't see why I can't go on until I'm 38 then become a manager'

Frank Lampard has no intention of retiring just yet, but he does have one eye on moving into the dugout afterwards


Anyone wondering whether Frank Lampard's legs and lungs may finally begin to show their age this season should think again. The Chelsea midfield player may be about to embark on a coaching course in preparation for management, but he is more concerned about extending his playing career for as long as possible.

It is little wonder that English football's very own Duracell Bunny has taken to the methods of Carlo Ancelotti, whose AC Milan side often appeared to be guinea pigs in a spectacular experiment to reverse the ageing process.

Lampard will begin his fourteenth season as a professional, in the Community Shield against Manchester United tomorrow, just as he has started all of the others — determined to make the most of his talent and to eke out every last drop of energy from his body. The 31-year-old mentions Ryan Giggs and Paolo Maldini as role models who continued to perform into and beyond their mid-thirties, but it is clear that his main inspiration remains his father, Frank Lampard Sr, whose work ethic as a player made a huge impression on his son.

"I'd be lying if I said I was a machine that never broke down and never got tired, but I'm just determined to keep carrying on," Lampard said. "I've got quite a strong mentality in that way. There are some games when I'm not at my best, but even then I'll try and contribute in some way.

The manner in which he has adapted to a deeper position for England indicates that Lampard could emulate Giggs by reinventing his role, but at Chelsea this season he can look forward to the freedom of playing behind two central strikers. The boy who was booed by his own fans at West Ham United has become the main man at Chelsea, to such an extent that he would like to stay on at the end of his career and even dreams of becoming manager. He regularly helps out with the youth team and rushed back to the training ground after this interview to watch a reserve-team friendly between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.

“I’m a Chelsea lifer now,” he said. “With the news about John [Terry] staying, we’ve both been here a long time and I’d like to keep it that way. In the Abramovich era there have always been players coming and going so it’s good if we can keep that backbone. With the frequent changes of manager maybe they need us for that.

“Management does interest me now. I didn’t want it a few years ago, but having worked with a lot of good managers and enjoyed seeing young players coming through I’d like to give it a go. I’ve spoken to John about it and we’re looking at doing our badges together.

“I’m sure John could be a good manager as he’s very inspirational, but who knows really? I remember my dad saying that Harry Redknapp was the last person he thought would be a manager as he wasn’t a thinker at all. He just used to play, have a bit of fun and then all of a sudden he became a very good club manager.

“I’d never sit here and say ‘I’ll be a great manager’, but I’ll give it everything if given the opportunity. I’d like to stay in London ideally, but that narrows down the options a bit. I don’t think West Ham would be desperate to take me! I’d love to manage Chelsea one day. It’s a bit of a dream as I’ve got such a strong affiliation to the club, but John might beat me to it.”

Lampard’s development into a key player for club and country has surprised even himself, as he considered leaving Stamford Bridge after being left on the bench for the first Champions League tie of the Abramovich era. In addition to his determination, his improvement since is a testament to the vision of managers from Claudio Ranieri to Guus Hiddink, who have fuelled his interest in life in the dugout.

“Just after Abramovich bought the club part of me thought I wasn’t going to make it,” Lampard said. “I remember thinking during our first Champions League match in Prague, ‘This ain’t for me if I’m going to be on the bench watching other people play’. If I ever had to make a move to get games, rather than staying for money, then I’d go to play. I have surprised myself a little bit. When I came to Chelsea I was in awe of the Zolas and Desaillys, who seemed a million miles away from where I was.”

Lampard went on to prove himself by playing a crucial role in winning two Premier League titles and two FA Cups, though he believes that Chelsea have underachieved in recent years.

“This team haven’t won as much as we should have done, certainly in the last few years,” he said. “I’d have liked to have won one extra league title and finished off the Champions League. We’ve come up short in Europe for sure, but it’s a very competitive world. If I can play for another five or six years, win two or three league titles and the Champions League then I’ll be very happy at the end of it. It’d be nice to win a major trophy so we can finally move on from José Mourinho. We need to win things.”

Chelsea start the season in good spirits after retaining the entire squad that finished so strongly under Hiddink, but Lampard warns his team-mates that they cannot afford to lose focus, as they did under Luiz Felipe Scolari.

“If we’d have played all season like we did under Hiddink we’d have won the league, but there was a stage in the middle when we forgot some of the basics,” he said. “You have to work hard every day, take pride in training, and players just have to play and not worry about anything else. There was a time when there were too many other issues being talked about, rather than what was happening on the pitch.

“I don’t like the idea of making excuses. I take things on my own shoulders and if I’m not playing well I’ll blame myself for it. Am I training wrong? Am I living wrong? Am I thinking wrong? You have to have that attitude as a group, but there was a stage in the season when we didn’t work as hard as we should have done to put things right.”

Given his high standards, Lampard the manager is likely to be a tough taskmaster, drilling his players in the importance of discipline and demanding some lung-busting leg work.


Edited by Terminator X
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