Frank Lampard says he is “proud to be Chelsea manager” because of the club’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
While some clubs have been criticised for furloughing staff at the taxpayers’ expense during the suspension of play, Chelsea have made no such move and drew praise for making their Millennium Hotel available to the NHS in the early days of the crisis. The club has also teamed up with Refuge, the domestic abuse charity to raise funds for those suffering during the pandemic.
Long before the debate over whether Premier League players should be taking pay cuts, the first-team squad also made a sizeable donation to the club’s foundation in late March, helping to provide support to local hospitals and those affected by the virus.
“I’m very proud to be the manager of this club with the way Chelsea have handled it,” Lampard told Sky Sports. “They were very quick to respond with the help of the hotel and there’s a lot more work going on with the foundation, with link-ups and with getting in touch with fans. There are a lot of people at Chelsea who have really stood up.”
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, caused controversy earlier this month when he singled out Premier League footballers in calling for them to sacrifice pay to help out, speaking at a time when plans were already being drawn up behind the scenes.
“Football players will try and do the right thing,” Lampard said. “I think they needed some time and the politicians jumped the gun while things were being prepared. It was unfortunate that picture got painted.
“Since then a lot of players have stood up. The situation is not perfect but, knowing players, that’s been a very good reaction and it’s ongoing and it shouldn’t stop. If there’s a light at the end of this tunnel it’s how we give back.
Lampard is trying to prepare through an unprecedented time in football, with everybody working from home and no one certain when matches might return.
“It’s challenging,” he said. “It’s not as challenging as it is for some people, we know what tough times these are for people at the minute. It’s challenging in that it’s unprecedented and we don’t know how long it’s going to go on for. We’re trying to stay in contact with the players. In football we’re so used to schedules and routine and this is completely different.”
Lampard said he had to have trust in his players to follow the fitness plans and advice given to them by coaches.
“It’s very hard to absolutely manage that,” he said. “You can ask them to run an hour a day but some are able to do some open running and some can’t so there’s a big element of trust in the players. We may have a short pre-season coming up so the players need to be ready. But they are professionals so you have to trust that they will want to come back as well as they can.”
Lampard also paid tribute to former Chelsea goalkeeper and England World Cup winner Peter Bonetti, who died on Sunday aged 78.
“I’ve got memories of watching him as a player and also meeting him and what a gentleman he was. He was working in hospitality upstairs when I first came to Chelsea and he was so friendly, he had time for everybody. He was an absolute gentleman and it’s a huge loss for Chelsea and for football.”