Frank Lampard represents a brave, progressive appointment by Derby chairman Mel Morris.
It’s not the first time the Candy Crush creator Morris has gone for a young British manager. Admittedly, having sacked Paul Clement for “not playing the Derby way”, he did give Gary Rowett an opportunity. But now that the ambitious Rowett has jumped ship to Stoke, Morris has given Lampard his first opportunity in management.
It’s possible that Morris is just enamoured with the idea of hiring a world-renowned superstar like Lampard, rather than considering any evidence that he’ll actually be a good manager. But the former Chelsea midfielder has clearly showcased his intelligence and his articulateness as a pundit, and has been waiting patiently for the right opportunity.
Many will see this as a watershed moment for young British managers getting a chance, but is this actually something new? Or perhaps a trend that is on the up across the Championship.
Getting a chance
Ryan Giggs was criticised by some for his lack of willingness to take an opportunity below Premier League level. By his logic, he didn’t know anything about the EFL, so why should he manage at a level he’s never played at?
Other young managers, however, have started to prove that opportunities are actually there if you’re willing to get your hands dirty and embrace the English Football League, which is exactly what Lampard has done.
With Graham Potter likely to be appointed imminently by Swansea, 11 out of the 24 Championship clubs look set to start next season with a British manager aged 45 or under, including all three sides relegated from the Premier League.
This number could go down to ten if Leeds decide to part company with Paul Heckingbottom but it remains impressively high, especially compared to the Premier League’s figure of just one.
Lee Johnson received rave reviews for the football he had Bristol City playing last season, with praise for their style coming from Pep Guardiola no less. Neil Harris has deservedly taken plaudits for the remarkable job he has done at Millwall since inheriting the mess left by Ian Holloway in 2015.
Of the others, Paul Warne got Rotherham promoted, Alex Neil overachieved at Preston, Paul Hurst took Grimsby back into the EFL before working wonders at Shrewsbury in League 1 earning the move to Ipswich.
This is an exciting crop of young managers that have earned their opportunities with outstanding work once given the opportunity.
Will this trend continue?
It’s notable that of those other ten young British managers in the Championship, only Harris and Warne are in their first jobs, and both had to earn promotion through League 1 to get the chance in the Championship, so Lampard is alone in the group in getting the opportunity first hand.
Opportunities for young British managers is something that pundits and fans alike have been talking about for a long time. It is likely that EFL chairmen have been influenced by the success of Eddie Howe in taking Bournemouth up through the league, a trailblazer for the young British manager, and that this current crop is partially a result of a shift in attitudes post-Howe.
The two youngest British managers in the Premier League are Howe and Sean Dyche, who both had to earn their way up by being promoted rather than anyone taking a gamble on them.
Coupled with the fact that it is a similar story with those that have worked their way up to the Championship, this group of managers getting opportunities may be dependent on actually being able to guide their current teams up themselves.
That seems to be the route Gary Rowett is determined to take. Harris, Johnson and Neil all came close with underdogs. Darren Moore and Potter will be expected to challenge.
And then there’s Lampard. It is rumoured that Morris will be cutting back on the extensive funding of the squad, but the fans will still expect the team to be competitive.
But if they aren’t to make their way up through promotion, as by far the biggest name of the British managers in the Championship, Lampard could play a big part in helping to shift perceptions of what is classed as a risk by Premier League chairmen.
The managerial Merry-Go-Round in the Premier League is growing stale. This season saw Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes, David Moyes, Paul Lambert and Alan Pardew all get given new jobs at the top level.
As of yet, then, taking a gamble on a Lampard or a Giggs is too much for Premier League chairmen. But after being willing to take a step down to hone his craft and prove himself, Frank Lampard can help shift attitudes of Premier League clubs towards giving a chance to those that have done well in this country.
It’s impossible to know whether this time in two years we’ll see the likes of Lee Johnson, Neil Harris or Paul Hurst managing in the Premier League, but Lampard could help to put this demographic on the map.
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