If new Derby County boss Frank Lampard is to improve on last season’s 6th place finish, he has his work cut out as automatic promotion is a necessity. Aston Villa’s play-off final defeat is a testament to the folly for relying on the lottery of finishing outside the top two in the Championship.
There is little to know of how Lampard will fare in his first sojourn into management. But what he possesses is obvious – a strong footballing pedigree, a fine mind to read the game, and an apparent affability that should endear him to the fans and players alike at Pride Park.
But much like Steven Gerrard, this is something of a trip into the unknown. Time obviously will be the only true barometer to measure his success. But for all the nuances of management, one of the underlying things is the cornerstone on which to build a team – preparation.
As former Manchester United star Roy Keane once said: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” Lampard, it would appear, comes from a similar school of thought. The level of preparation and practice that went into his playing days is a testament to this.
But this is management, and it is a different landscape for the former Chelsea midfielder, who spent 13 years as a player at Stamford Bridge. At Derby, he will have bigger and wider responsibilities. And one of the main areas where he needs to prepare well is having his players match-sharp ahead of the new season in August.
And with that, a triumvirate of games in July will prove crucial in laying the building blocks ahead of this new era for both the club and Lampard.
Derby will begin their pre-season campaign with a trip to Meadow Lane in mid-July. The game against Kevin Nolan’s hard-working and physical Notts County side will be a solid test for Lampard and company.
Derby will then face Coventry City on July 25th, and it is also expected to be a gruelling test for the Rams. Marks Robins’ side, who won promotion to League One through the playoffs, will be looking to continue their progress. And beating Derby would certainly boost their confidence ahead of the next season.
The final game sees the arrival of Wolverhampton Wanderers at Pride Park on July 28th. The game against the Premier League outfit will be a good way to measure how ready Lampard’s troops are for the season ahead.