Lampard believes the “beautiful” battle for survival has made Everton stronger

TThe noise outside Goodison Park is much quieter than when passionate Evertonians inspired their team to safety in May, but Frank Lampard can hear it just as clearly. Another fight for survival. The first manager to be sacked, according to the bookies. Whatever happens, a crash course in management at opposite ends of the Premier League table has left Lampard better equipped to handle it.

“I don’t care about that,” he says of the doom-laden prophecies that accompany Everton’s season. “I’m not immune to feeling it. I know it’s there in certain places. If you come out of a relegation battle and you lose a player of great value to the team on the pitch [Richarlison] I think it’s understandable. I understand when I listen to the radio and people say we’re probably going to fight again. This is no problem. Other clubs are probably being told that they will be in the European venues. It doesn’t mean anything at the moment.

“Any jitters from the outside are fine. For the Evertonians, I’d say, ‘Let’s see what we do’. We haven’t kicked a ball in anger yet; let’s see how well we compete against Chelsea. And when the window closes, in see what it’s like. We have to be positive about where we can go.”

Everton could look very different when the window closes with deals for midfielders Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye, interest in Wolves defender Conor Coady and a new striker wanted. Onana, a 20-year-old Belgium international long courted by West Ham, will undergo a medical this weekend after a €40m (£33.7m) deal was agreed with Lille. The here and now, however, is that they open without any recognized strikers available to face Chelsea. A freak training ground injury suffered by Dominic Calvert-Lewin on Tuesday has sidelined the hapless England international until mid-September.

It was just another testing day at the office for a manager working under a transfer embargo at Chelsea, qualifying for the Champions League and reaching the FA Cup final only to be sacked for the season next, and was thrown into his first relegation battle. career at a club that works with the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.

Lampard says: “I felt stronger coming here after having a year out and that was helpful for me and the balance of my own life. Towards the end of my time at Chelsea I dedicated a lot. It was my club and towards the end I was working under a lot of pressure because one or two defeats at Chelsea means the pressure comes and I knew it was coming.

Ruben Vinagre (right)
Ruben Vinagre (right) has joined Everton from Sporting Photograph: Pedro Nunes/Reuters

“It was good to reflect on it and get perspective. Everton was, for me, this incredible experience of a relegation battle which in the end was one of the most beautiful things in my life – to be there in front of the Palace after being 2-0 down and winning 3-2. Then you go away and weigh it all and realize you’ve been tested to a different limit and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the stress o the challenge. I found out quite a bit about myself and my staff and we crossed the line. There is nothing to rely on [for this season] but hopefully it will make me a stronger and better coach.”

The task of preserving Everton’s top-flight status was all-consuming for the 44-year-old following his January arrival. A first pre-season in charge without that pressure, however, has allowed Lampard to spend time rebuilding Everton from within. It is not just through the transfer market that he believes he can boost the club.

“I feel in a good position to do that,” says Lampard. “I’m not just saying this because of the squad we have and the relationships I have with the people at the club. I feel the club a little better now than the first day. I have a good relationship with the people above me and that is very important. They’ve been great to me. We had a BBQ at Finch Farm the other day and everyone was there from the academy to the ladies team, all the teams, their partners and staff and it gave me a real sense of what it is and can be this club

“The children and families were there, bouncy castles. It was something I did at Chelsea a long time ago and the great people who work behind the scenes here, it’s a great community club, took it to new levels. I can’t sit here and say I made this awesome BBQ, I didn’t organize the plates and the bouncy castles, but it was a good exercise to show everyone that we’re in this together.

“I think it’s one of our strengths that we got from the fan base last year and it’s important that we carry it forward. It doesn’t put points on the board but it’s important that Rúben Vinagre’s wife or girlfriend, who ends to move to this country, or Dwight McNeil who has just arrived at the club, they feel like part of a family. When I came in here last year, the priority was to stay. Now there are things we can do behind the scenes that take the club forward. Little things like that are little, little victories in terms of bringing everyone together.”

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