Joe Cole believes that former teammate Frank Lampard is the perfect man to manage Chelsea in their current climate, trusting that the transfer ban is Lampard’s chance to change the culture of the club.
The ex-Chelsea midfielder is looking at the silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud that will hang over Stamford Bridge for an unwanted length of time and wants the club to relish the opportunity it may bring.
The Blues are prohibited from signing and new players until the summer of 2020 after Fifa found them guilty of breaching regulations of signing underage players.
Lampard was busy managing Derby County to the Championship play-off final when Chelsea made the dodgy deals but has found himself with his hands tied in his debut season in the Premier League.
At Derby, Lampard was rather ironically, utilising the young Chelsea players that got them in trouble in the first place. Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori performed well under Lampard who has already expressed that he will be looking to promote youth in a similar fashion.
Rather fittingly, Lampard may be forced to accelerate his younger players into first-team action more so now that he is unable to purchase talent elsewhere.
Blessing in disguise?
And Cole who works as a coach within the Chelsea academy himself feels as though this unfortunate circumstance could be turned on its head and galvanise the entire club.
“It’s an opportunity,” Cole told the London Evening Standard Sport.
“No one would have chosen to have a transfer ban, but what this has done is give us a moment in time and an opportunity to change the culture and the energy and how the club is perceived.
"The young players are excited — there’s an excitement in the club that I’ve not sensed before.”
Catching the champions
Cole recognised Chelsea’s previous successes and even thinks that new manager Lampard is the man to get the team back up to the level of the dominant Manchester City.
“The club has been exceptional over the past 20 years, particularly since Roman Abramovich [bought the Blues in 2003], it’s been the most successful club in the country in terms of winning trophies," he said.
"I think we need to recognise that, but if you’re going to catch Manchester City, you need more. More cohesion, [to be] more settled, everything around the club — and I think Frank’s the man to bring that.”
Lampard’s last match in charge of Derby came at Wembley Stadium as they were, once again, denied access to the Premier League at the hands of Aston Villa.
With only one Championship season under his rather loose managerial belt, some supporters believed that the move to what might have been his final destination was slightly premature.
Cole, though, believes that the timing could be more ideal for the entire club.
“He knows the time is right,” Cole said.
“People say you can’t turn it down. You can turn it down, there’s always an option. He could have said no.
"He feels he’s ready and, having known Frank for many years, if he’s ready, he’s ready. It’ll be a success. In everything he’s done he’s been successful. I can’t see there being anyone better qualified to manage Chelsea at this time.”
The young talent:
During Lampard’s pre-season campaign with Chelsea, he opted to promote youth once again. However, of all the youth players he exposed to the first team, it was Mount who arguably impressed the most alongside the more senior but equally out of favour Ross Barkley.
The two will be competing for the central attacking midfielder role next season. One has already impressed and showed he can perform under Lampard, the other is a Premier League experienced attacker who had the unquestionable talent yet to be discovered in the blue of Chelsea.
Cole acknowledged there is a plethora of talent ready to fill the vacant number 10 spot in England’s future and wants both Mount and Barkley to kick on and make it their own.
“You’ve got [Phil] Foden, [James] Maddison, Barkley, [Jack] Grealish — Mason Mount I’d throw into that,” he said.
“We’ve never had so many players, number 10s, who can handle the ball. If I’m one of that group, I’m thinking, ‘Right, I want to be the premier young attacking midfielder in this country’, to ensure I’m on that plane to the Euros. I love watching them play, I think they’re exceptional. It’ll be interesting to see which one gets the nod in the England squad.”
Where will Chelsea finish?
The race for a top-four place in the Premier League has never been hotter. There are several teams who could make a push for Champions League football this year and Chelsea will have to be at their absolute best if they are to book another year among Europe’s elites next season.
Despite all the competition, Cole is confident that his old side can clinch the position in Lampard’s first season but must remain wary.
“I can see the top four the same as last year,” Cole said. “It's gonna be very close, I'm sure you don't need a database or a script to know that the Premier League's very close. It's the most exciting thrilling league in the world.
“But you go and tell the Chelsea fans, the Liverpool fans, the Man City fans, the Tottenham fans, that they're not going to get nowhere [in Europe], they'll tell you you're mad.
“That's how competitive our league is. Every one of those teams genuinely believes they can win the Champions League, and rightly so.”