Frank Lampard believes keeping Everton in the Premier League would be bigger than winning the title as a player given the stakes involved, and admits his managerial reputation has been on the line since he replaced Rafael Benítez in January.
Lampard has become so consumed by the challenge of securing Everton’s top-flight status, and avoiding the financial disaster of relegation, that he considers it more important than the three Premier League titles he won during a glittering career with Chelsea. Everton visit relegated Watford on Wednesday hoping to record back-to-back away wins for the first time this season and Lampard has urged his players to seize the opportunity.
“When you live this experience of a relegation battle it so consumes you and you so want the right thing because you understand what the stakes are,” he said. “The stakes for this are bigger for me now than when I won the Premier League as a player because of what it means to the club.
“You know the economics of it are greater as well, to a different degree, and you know what it means to the fans and the people who work here. There shouldn’t be any way, with four games to go and one point out of the relegation zone, that you think you are fine. We’ve got a big job to do still.”
Everton have dragged themselves out of the relegation zone with a more resilient, pragmatic style in recent games and Lampard accepts his coaching ability was under scrutiny from the moment he arrived.
“There are a lot of questions of everybody when you are in this position, and I came into it,” he said. “The players are questioned, the club is questioned, I’m questioned. It’s the cutting-edge part of the job in that position. I’m having an incredible experience – again, I am not talking like it is done, we are in it still – but I came here and people wanted to challenge me.
“At Derby we had probably 60% possession, high press, and Chelsea 60-70% possession, high press. That was the way I set up as a coach. Then in the last three games we are working at 25-30% possession, organising the team, getting a result, seeing the reaction, and that’s been an incredible challenge in a good way.”
Lampard, who expects to be without the influential defender Yerry Mina for the next three games because of a calf injury, admits he is glad he did not hold out for an easier job.
“I possibly could have waited,” he said. “I could have sat on my arse and done the bins at home for another six months. That has actually seemed quite appealing a couple times in the last few months! But it’s how I’ve been all my career. You build up a thicker skin as you go along, and you get excited by challenges.
“If I had been somewhere else waiting I wouldn’t be experiencing 3,300 fans perform like they did the other day [at Leicester], or coming to the training ground or turning up for the Chelsea game. The feeling of that, this club and understanding how big it is, and what it is on the line here, has been a really huge thing for me.”