It’s the start of a new era for both Derby County and Frank Lampard. The Chelsea legend is making his first foray into management with the Rams.
Pride Park has now gone a decade without hosting Premier League football, with the loyal Rams support witnessing one false dawn after another.
So, what must the new man in DE24 tackle, if he’s to deliver top-flight football to this part of the East Midlands?
Instil a winning mentality
With the appointment of Lampard, the Rams have now made their seventh managerial change in less than five years. But up to now, there’s been a real sense of déjà vu – whoever’s been in the dugout.
The 2013-14 season saw a strong automatic promotion push under Steve McClaren falter once March arrived, with the eventual result a crushing play-off final defeat.
Things were even worse the following year. Top of the table in February, the Rams eventually missed the play-offs. They’ve since cracked the top-six in two of the last three seasons – but they’ve frozen under the pressure of the play-offs both times.
If the Rams are to finally gain a winning mentality, Lampard could be just the man to inject it. As well as three Premier League titles and a Champions League winners’ medal, he could be ideally suited to the unique nature of a play-off final.
The Romford native won five major finals at Wembley with the Blues – including four FA Cups. With the tight margins and huge stakes of a play-off final, that experience could prove invaluable.
Revamp an ageing backline
Last season’s first-choice centre-back pairing of Curtis Davies and Richard Keogh were frequently exposed by the Championship’s more mobile strike-forces.
With a combined age of 64-years-old, they were often joined at right-back by 36-year-old Chris Baird. All three have been highly-regarded players in their day, but with the Rams defence past their sell-by-date, there’s no room for sentimentality.
Lampard has already allowed Baird’s contract – and that of 34-year-old centre-half Jason Shackell – to wind down this summer. The new boss is clearly aware of the problem. After all, Derby had comfortably the worst defensive record in the top-six last term. The key task now is bringing in younger, quicker talents to take over the reigns.
Sort out the Vydra conundrum
How do you solve a problem like Matej Vydra?
The prolific Czech hitman slammed home 22 of the Rams 67 Championship goals last term (or 32%, in case you were wondering). But interest from new Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa threatens to turn his head.
It’s the first big conundrum of Lampard’s managerial career. Does he try to convince a potentially want-away star man to remain with the Rams, or take the cash and hunt for a worthy replacement?
If he is opts for the latter, the contacts he’s built at Chelsea and Manchester City could be vital. Tammy Abraham may be a target, having failed to break into the first-team at Stamford Bridge – and the England international is proven in the Champ.
Ahead of the season, Derby County are 12/1 to win the Championship. That puts Lampard and co. eighth in the betting.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing