Ahead of the 240th Merseyside derby and his first as manager, Everton boss Frank Lampard sat down with Sky Sports’ Patrick Davison to discuss facing fierce rivals Liverpool, the battle to avoid relegation, and what the future holds for Dele Alli.
PD: Frank, thanks for your time. What are you expecting from your first Merseyside derby?
Lampard: “I’m really excited. It’s the beauty of the game that we’re fortunate enough to work in. I played a long time in London derbies and Liverpool-Chelsea games were ding-dongs back in the day, but the Merseyside derby was always a game you would have your eye on from the outside and even as a London lad would have an understanding of the rivalry.
“To be a part of it is an amazing thing and it’s a hugely important game for both of us, for different reasons. We’re going up against one of the best teams in the world, we have to go in there with a real idea and sense of what it means to our fans as a baseline, and then what it means to us in terms of points. It’s a big challenge for us but we have to be ready for that fight.”
PD: Do you get a different sense of what it means having been Everton manager now for a few months?
Lampard: “At the training ground we have a lot of Evertonians who work here, the club’s in their blood. So since taking the job I’ve got a real understanding of the city, an understanding of Evertonians all over the world. The history and size of this club was something I was aware of, but when you live it you find it even more, so I get what this means to the fans, to families, Reds and Blues together, friends down the pub, all those things and we have to understand that. We’re the fortunate ones who can have an effect on it and make their weekend, their Sunday evening better.
“I remember coming to Liverpool as a Chelsea player. It’s a city you would fly up to, come up to and the intensity of football in the city was huge straight away. The size of this club and the opportunity is a big thing on a football level but when you know you’re going to represent a club that has such strong and passionate backing, for me that’s a huge thing. I don’t want to work in a quiet club where you can get away with a defeat or you’re happy just to be there. We want more, this club wants more and we’re in a position where this club wants more, so I’m very happy to be part of that.”
PD: That maybe makes the bad times a bit harder, though?
Lampard: “Maybe, but I came into it like that. This league will challenge you. There are no rights in this league, you have to earn it you don’t get given anything in this league, so I came into it understanding the position we’re in. The fans understand that and the players understand that, that’s where we’re at, and the only way I know to get out of that is to fight and be passionate. The reality for us is we’ve got seven games to go, we don’t need to win seven, we probably won’t win seven, but we need to win enough to stay in this league and that means it’s a tough challenge because you have to be resilient and resilience will be a big thing for us on Sunday as well.”
PD: Do you talk to Everton players about the size of the club?
Lampard: “I think the players have to understand the importance of it. You can’t hide from that and you have to be the messenger in that sense, which I have been at times since I’ve been here after a tough result or in the week if I feel like things aren’t quite how I want them to be. But there also has to be a sense of calm. It’s important as a manager to be balanced, for good and for bad.”
PD: Is the pressure of competing at the top of the Premier League different from the pressure at the bottom?
Lampard: “For me, it doesn’t feel it. I’m very used to the pressure of playing in a World Cup for your country, which is probably the most intense pressure you can get personally, so that I’ve had before. The understanding of where you want to be and the fact you’re losing more games than you used to as a player, that’s a different challenge slightly, but very quickly you just understand that’s what it is.
“In terms of handling pressure, I’m quite well versed in it I think, I’ve been doing it for a long time and I think in this job you have to be. Everyone has their relative pressures, nobody gets away with them. Jurgen Klopp doesn’t get away with them because his pressure is ‘Go on. Can you win all four?’ and that’s a big pressure. ‘Can you not draw a game to go and win the league? Win every game to win the league?’ Serious pressure for everybody.”
PD: Are you wary of Liverpool winning the quadruple and what that would mean?
Lampard: “I’m mindful of it, but I don’t consider it too much because whether Liverpool win the quadruple or two cups this year is not the main importance. The main thing is Everton and I’d like to think that for us as a club and for our fans, for this season and the period we’re in now, staying up and getting the job done this year would be a huge deal for us. Not to say we’re going to celebrate because people will say ‘Why are you celebrating?’, because I know people have been criticised for that before, but it’s just where we’re at.
“If we can do that then we can plan what’s next for Everton and where we want to take this place in terms of the culture, the squad and those are big questions we’ll want to attack at that point. What’s next is always in the back of your head because I’m ambitious. I came here with an idea and the first part of that idea is to stay in this league and that takes a lot of qualities that we’ll have to show over the next seven games. The next part of that will hopefully be where can we get things right going forward so we don’t get in this position again. I have to keep building that in the back of my head because it’s part of your job as a coach.”
PD: What will it take to get Everton from fighting relegation to competing higher up the table?
Lampard: “West Ham were fighting relegation two years ago and now they’re playing in a European semi-final. I’m not trying to say we will be that, I’m not, but I’m just saying there are some fine margins in football. In my time here there are probably four to six, maybe more points where I kind of go ‘referee decision in that, we should have been more clinical in that one’.
“I’ve got plenty of time in my head to go over those things but the reality is once it’s gone, it’s gone. We always talk about both boxes, defending well and being clinical and we haven’t done that well enough. That’s a big part of why we are where we are, but we have to look forward to what’s in front of us now with seven huge games.”
PD: Do you think the players care as much as the supporters do?
Lampard: “Yeah, I do. In the modern dressing room, we come to work every day and caring means having the right attitude in training, giving everything in training, preparing well for games, being a good team-mate – all these things. That’s your job.
“We’re not asking every player to become an Evertonian overnight, but we are asking them to be proud and represent this club as best as they possibly can. That’s what we have to do and to be fair, that’s what the players do. I’ve said it a lot, because it’s the easy go-to when a team’s not doing so well that they must not be trying enough. That’s not the fact with us.
“We do a lot of work in training with physical data, we understand where we’re at. We have some other problems, we know that, in terms of why we are where we are. But in terms of effort and care, these players understand the situation we’re in and the first thing I ask of them is that the fans see that in every single game.”
PD: Do you go to Anfield honestly believing you can win?
Lampard: “If we don’t then we may as well not turn up. Can we be realists? Yeah. We’re going up against the form team in the world. Great individuals, great manager, great process to get to where they’ve got to. But it’s a game of 11 men against 11 men and we absolutely have to believe that if we do our jobs right, we give absolutely everything from the first minute until the last, it will have to be from our point of view pretty faultless to get the result we want, but do we believe? Yes, because the Evertonians turning up at Anfield and the ones watching at home, they believe. They may think it’s a tough one, but that little bit of belief is why we love football.
“With the lads, they are desperate to do well with this club. They have to have an understanding first of what it means, how important it is and the baseline things – the fight and the passion that will be the foundation of any game plan. In terms of a team talk, if I just put up the game plan and the tactics and just said ‘Stroll out lads, this will be fine’, you won’t win any game of football, let alone against Liverpool. So in this moment, when things are so important for us, they have to have a huge understanding of it.
“I’m excited to go to Anfield. I understand how tough it is. We’ll be everyone’s favourite not to get anything from the game in terms of the outside, but I don’t mind that. My eyes are on what we’ve got in front of us during the next month, and the Liverpool game comes first. We give everything in that game.”
PD: Do you expect it to be fierce on the pitch and in the dugout?
Lampard: “Yeah, I wouldn’t expect it any other way. It’s a stadium where I’ve played a lot and managed there – managed behind closed doors there to be fair – but it’s an incredible place in terms of the atmosphere it brings. There are a lot of things that bring this city together, whether you’re a Blue or a Red. I understand that passion of it and it will be the same when we play at Goodison. So it’s a huge game, it will bring an incredible atmosphere and it’s the first thing we’ll have to stand up and suck in.”
PD: It would be a game-changer if you won, wouldn’t it?
Lampard: “There would be six more games to go. It will be a great, amazing thing for us, but there are six more games and that’s where we’re at.”
PD: And just finally, on Dele Alli – can he still be the player he was and the player we thought he was going to be?
Lampard: “Yeah, because we’ve seen it. It’s a challenge because there has been a period when he hasn’t been at those levels, he’d be the first to say it. I say it to him a lot – that is the challenge.
“Work, consistency, training, preparation and all those things can absolutely get him back to where he was. I believe that, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought him to the club. It was never going to be an overnight story because that isn’t football and it’s not life as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes you have to fight, people have setbacks, issues, tough moments – we all have them in our own ways and Dele can know I’m very much with him on that.
“All the questions will be answered by him. No doubt that talent is there and maybe with more years and maturity, that talent comes back and so does maturity and then you see a slightly different Dele, but the same level of quality.”
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April 24 – Liverpool (a), live on Sky Sports
May 1 – Chelsea (h), live on Sky Sports
May 7 – Leicester (a)
May 10 – Watford (a)
May 15 – Brentford (h)
May 19 – Crystal Palace (h)
May 22 – Arsenal (a)
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