It’s been well over two months since a ball was kicked in anger on English shores, all of us having had to get used to a different way of life amid the ongoing pandemic.
Footballers, like the rest of us, have had to make do with the use of video calls to keep in touch with friends and family, as well as conducting their various fitness routines, Premier League players only returning to training this week, and even that has been in small, socially distanced groups.
Frank Lampard has revealed that the current suspension of football has taught him the value and importance of ‘communication’ with his squad – a number of Chelsea players having expressed their concerns around restart proposals, with N’Golo Kante even having been granted compassionate leave amid concerns for his health.
“One of the things for me as a manager that I’ve learnt in this two-month period is that communication is so key,” Lampard told the official Chelsea website. “When we went into isolation we all felt like we went into this crazy bubble that we’re not used to. Me sending messages to the players and asking how they felt was so important.
“I didn’t want to bombard them so they were bored of me but I did want them to know that I’m here. As the talk of restarting came it was an important conversation that we had collectively. Everybody is different and we’ve seen that with the reaction of players and that has to be respected in all ways. We work every day as a family and a team and we’ll respect everyone and how they feel about the restart and coming back to work.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 23, 2020
‘Project Restart’ proposals initially targetted June 12 as a date for the Premier League to resume, though a delay to the start of training, and fears of significant injury has led to suggestions that it could be pushed back by a week, with players not yet permitted to take part in full-contact training.
“All of us here want to work. It’s our job and we’re very fortunate to have this job, to play football and we want to finish it,” Lampard said.
“When we see so many things in the country and the world, much more important things than football happening, I think that’s been a bit of a reset for all of us but what remains is we want to play football. We want to finish this season but the most important thing is when it’s safe and healthy for players and staff. Fans won’t be coming but will it change things in society, the policing, the NHS, all these things need to come together and hopefully we can get our game back.”
When the game does eventually resume, it will be behind-closed-doors, with the Bundesliga the first to get their game underway last weekend. Lampard believes that the lack of supporters in English stadia will have an effect on performance levels, and admitted he will need to ‘focus’ his players as they attempt to secure Champions League qualification.
“It’s certainly proper football,” Lampard added. “There are clear things that are going to be affected, you may not get to the level of what we get with crowds because that’s why the Premier League is for me the best in the world, because our home fans drive us on and that’s why home advantage is so important but when you go away, that hostility and tribalism sometimes drives you on as well. It’s a beautiful thing.
“Of course it’s football [the behind-closed-door games]. There will be things that are different and I’ll have to speak to the players about that but when there’s three points and when you’re playing for your team and you want to get somewhere in the league, then of course the focus is there.”