Jody Morris sums up Chelsea’s season in one word and thinks he and Lampard should have been given more time at Stamford Bridge
In the second part of an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes, Jody Morris talks about Chelsea’s season, his time as assistant to Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge and the highs and lows at Derby County.
You can read the first part by clicking on the link in which the former Blues midfielder talked about the future of Conor Gallagher.
Chelsea’s season can be summed up in one word: underwhelming
On a whole I’d say this season has been slightly underwhelming for Chelsea, especially considering how strong they finished last year. If you look at them defensively when Thomas Tuchel took over, they looked so solid – and then to go on and achieve what they did by winning the Champions League, you’d have been right to have had high hopes for them at the start of this season with the signing of Romelu Lukaku. You thought maybe that might have been the missing jigsaw piece that could have elevated them to the levels of Manchester City and Liverpool.
I wasn’t getting too carried away by the team at the beginning of the season, because I felt that they were giving up a lot of chances in games – and even though they weren’t conceding many goals, I thought Edouard Mendy was their best player in those opening eight or nine games.
For a team that was as solid as they were defensively at the back end of last season, I felt that was a slightly worrying sign. Ultimately, I think that’s kicked in on too many occasions this season. The minute Mendy has an off game, they were conceding goals far too easily. Even at the start of the season, when Lukaku was scoring, I still felt the team could have done more. When you look at the players the manager has got at his disposal, it’s fair to say you should be expecting the team to create a lot more chances than they have done.
You could even say that, as far as performances are concerned, you’d still say there’s a hell of a gap between Chelsea and the top two in the division. Obviously, the aim this year would have been to close that gap, so on that front you’d have to say it’s been pretty disappointing.
That being said, under Tuchel, Chelsea do seem to win the games that matter, and you wouldn’t count Chelsea out of finishing the season with a trophy.
Should me and Frank have been given more time at Chelsea? Yes!
You’re always going to be disappointed when you lose your job, and it’s even more the case when it’s at a club which means so much to you, so that’s absolutely how Frank [Lampard] and I, and the rest of the staff, felt last season.
I’m not going to lie, we realised we were in a five or six week-long bad spell, but we went top of the league at the start of December – and we were sacked in January. That’s a very short period of time, but unfortunately that’s the nature of the job. You felt that there was pressure on you purely and simply because you’re at a top team in the Premier League.
The time you’re afforded at Chelsea is probably much shorter than you’d get at other clubs, so regardless of how much of a legend Frank is at the club, we knew what was waiting for us around the corner after a bad run of games.
Do I think it happened a little bit early? Yes. But, when you then look at what happened at the end of that season, I suppose you can’t argue with the decision because the club went on to win the Champions League. But if you spoke to fans at the time when we were let go, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying the overriding feeling was that it was a little bit harsh.
But in football, we all know that things can change really quickly – and while people perhaps thought the decision was harsh at the time, as soon as the club goes and turns a corner, things are forgotten very quickly. Me and Frank have been in the game long enough to know that that’s football, and it’s not going to be changing any time soon.
I was absolutely gutted to leave the club, of course. But at the same time, I realise that’s the nature of the beast. When you’re involved with a Premier League club – particularly at Chelsea – you know that sort of thing is just around the corner.
Frank Lampard knew what he was signing up for at Everton
Frank knows exactly what he’s doing, and will have known as much as he possibly could about the situation at Everton before taking the job. If there’s a more considered person in football when it comes to making these big decisions, then I’m yet to meet them.
Yes, there are certain elements that you can only find out once you’re in the hot seat and once you’re working closely with the players, but he will have known the level of those players from the outside – and I’ve no doubt he now knows exactly how much potential they possess.
It’s difficult to go into any club during the season, especially when you’re making such a huge transition from a certain style of play which was previously being used. He’s been brought in there because they’re under-performing, and so, of course, he’s going to want to change that at the first opportunity, But you’d like to change it with your own style and implement your own ideas, and that’s something you really need a pre-season to do.
It’s a big ask to go into a club so bereft of confidence and, let’s be honest, in a relegation battle, and try to implement your own philosophies, because those things take time.
Frank knew exactly what he was doing when he went in there, and he knows the ultimate goal is to keep the club in the Premier League this season, and then build from there. That’s always been his prime goal from the moment he walked through the door.
There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes with his coaching staff, the players, both on a one-to-one basis and collectively, to try to boost morale and find some momentum. It’s really hard to do that, but surely after the result against Manchester United at the weekend, you’d hope that’s a springboard for the team – especially when the likes of Burnley are dropping points against Norwich.
You can only really judge Frank if we get to the end of the season and Everton are still a Premier League outfit. That’s part one of the job done, then it’s about getting stuck into things with the players in the summer – and that’s where he can look at bringing his own names in.
They’re flirting dangerously with the prospect of relegation, but everyone inside that club knows they have more than enough to get out of the position they’re currently in. Frank is certainly not lacking in self-belief, and he’ll want to implement that into the players in the next few weeks. He wants the fans at Goodison Park to be right behind him and his team, because that’s an amazing place to play when the fans are behind you.
Derby County days gave me the best and worst nights of my career
I still think about what happened at Derby even to this day. I’ve still got some good friends there, and I can’t speak highly enough of the fans and the support we had while we were there. I really feel for the supporters of that club as much as anybody. The players were great for us, and what I often think about are those small margins. We were 90 minutes away from the Premier League and that makes it really difficult to see the club in its current position in the table.
When we left that summer, the club did give it another go in the next transfer window as far as investment went. They spent a bit of money, so they clearly felt they were very close.
It’s very difficult for me to comment on the aftermath of the game at Wembley against Aston Villa. It’s certainly up there with the biggest lows I’ve ever felt in the game – both in my playing and coaching career. I believed in us, I believed in the players, I felt everyone associated with that football club deserved another crack at the Premier League. To see them going through the problems they’re dealing with at the moment, it hurts.
I’ll always have an affinity with that football club because of how the people in the area treated us from the minute we walked through the doors to the minute we left. I’m gutted to see them where they are at the moment, but at the same time it does bring an element of admiration from neutral supporters. Despite everything that’s been thrown at them, their supporters are still turning up in their tens of thousands every week.
The fact that we’re even saying they’ve got the slightest of chances of staying up this season is a credit to not only Wayne Rooney – who has done a fantastic job – but also his backroom staff, his players and the fans. They’ve stuck through these difficult times together, and I want nothing more than to see them back at their best. I hope and wish they’re able to perform a minor miracle. It’s so difficult to see, when things are out of the hands of the players, the staff and the fans, it makes it all the more gutting.
There have certainly been times I’ve looked back over the years and thought ‘if only’. You know? If only we could have won that final at Wembley and taken that great club back into the Premier League. It’s a hard one to take. Those fans deserve to be supporting their club at the highest level of English football.
All of that being said, though, it’s important to look at some of the positives we took from our time with the club. I can hand on heart say that, while that period of my career played host to one of the worst moments I’ve experienced, the build-up to that play-off final, and in particular that win over Leeds at Elland Road, is right up there as one of my greatest nights ever in football. The way the players performed, the way we were up against it and responded – we were so far behind in the tie at one stage.
Obviously, after the spygate stuff earlier on in the season, it made it an even more amazing night, and one that will live with me forever. I can tell you now, it went on for a long while into the night afterwards as well! We really made sure we celebrated that win in style; not overdoing it because we still had the final to play in a couple of weeks – but it was one of those nights where the players and the staff will forever share a bond over.
Leeds were a top team, and don’t forget, they probably could have gone up automatically that season – in fact I think they finished nine points ahead of us, so on paper they were going into that fixture as the better side, with the home advantage in the second leg. But that’s how the play-offs go sometimes. For us to get through that night on such a high, it’s the beauty of football, I suppose. Two weeks later, I’m probably having one of my lowest nights in football. Travelling back up to Derby from Wembley knowing we weren’t going to be playing in the Premier League was a really difficult one to take.
The reason I didn’t join Lamps at Everton…he told me to go and find a manager’s job
When me and Frank first left Chelsea, I was approached by a Championship club with regard to being their number one and I called Lamps straightaway to ask him what he thought. He told me to “absolutely go and talk to them”. It was a quality club, and I went through a three or four-week period where I’d actually got my head around the idea of being a manager and not an assistant. I always knew I was going to be a manager one day anyway. I’d left my role managing the academy team at Chelsea to join Frank at Derby – I managed my own staff there, so I felt it was only going to be a matter of time until I was in a managerial role.
Granted, it hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve had conversations with a couple of clubs. I think – well, I know – I’ve been close to getting a job, but we haven’t quite got over the line just yet. So I didn’t want to start looking at going back to a role where I’m supporting someone else. I feel like I need to give myself as long as possible to find the right job for me and my coaching career before I think about going back to an assistant role.
It’s all about timing, and each case is different. There have been a couple of instances this season where if I’d have been offered the job, I’d have taken it. But ideally, you want as much time with your players to implement your philosophies, so in an ideal world you’d be looking at taking over a club in the off-season. You want to assemble your staff, get close with your players, really take time with recruitment – but at the same time beggars can’t be choosers.
Your contacts in and around the game are your selling points and even the clubs that I have spoken to, those sort of conversations have taken place. ‘If I were to get the job, can I use my contacts at some of those top clubs to bring players in to improve the team I’m managing?’
You want to utilise any links you have anywhere, and I’m lucky enough to have good relationships with many clubs in the Premier League and the Championship – not just Chelsea. One of the plus points you have as a former player getting into management, is that it’s likely you have friends in good positions at other clubs, and in my case I’ve had experience working behind the scenes with a couple of teams – and you’ve got to take all of those experiences and use them to your advantage.