Chelsea legends John Terry and Frank Lampard could have been reunited at the beginning of this season… instead it will end with close friends stood in opposite dugouts when Aston Villa meet Derby in play-off final
- Aston Villa meet Derby in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on May 27
- Derby boss Frank Lampard will go head-to-head with Villa assistant John Terry
- It is impossible to ignore the delicious conflict between the two Chelsea legends
- The pair won three Premier League titles and one Champions League together
Back in September, when John Terry had yet to hang up his boots, a reunion with Frank Lampard at Derby was mooted. ‘I would take John Terry all day, every day,’ said Lampard.
Instead, eight months later, Lampard will be taking on Terry in a match of enormous significance. The two close friends, team-mates at Chelsea for 13 years of triumph and tumult, are set to stand in opposite dugouts at Wembley for the Championship play-off final on May 27.
Terry, of course, is Dean Smith’s assistant and the spotlight will be on Aston Villa’s manager, who is on his own emotive journey. But it is impossible to ignore the delicious conflict between a pair who won so much together as players, now each in their first campaigns of coaching.
Derby boss Frank Lampard guided his side into the play-off final after a brilliant win over Leeds
John Terry will go head-to-head with Lampard at Wembley after Aston Villa beat West Brom
Date – May 27 (Monday)
Time – 3pm
Venue – Wembley
Channel – Sky Sports
Last summer Lampard could not do a deal for Terry because Derby had to cut the wage bill. A few weeks later Terry retired from playing and took up position assisting Smith alongside long-term colleague Richard O’Kelly.
Villa chief executive Christian Purslow knew Terry from three years working as Chelsea’s head of global commercial activities and proposed his involvement to Smith, who was selected as the outstanding candidate to succeed Steve Bruce after an interview process including five candidates.
Smith had come across Terry while managing Brentford and Walsall, and also coached Terry’s brother Paul at Leyton Orient. An hour-long FaceTime chat to refresh their relationship confirmed that joining up at Villa should work. ‘We decided it was right,’ Smith said. ‘If it wasn’t we both could have said no. But I felt it was a win-win. It was my decision.’
Terry arrived for his first day at 7.30am armed with his pencil case ready to take notes. He has shelves full of pads containing coaching details at his Surrey home, having studied Jose Mourinho and others, and continues to absorb information from a manager with more than 400 matches in the Football League.
‘This is now his apprenticeship into coaching, he’s going to get the hours in,’ said Smith. ‘I’m quite flattered he’s chosen to work with us.’ The learning has flowed both ways, with Terry’s playing experience at elite level and Premier League contacts proving valuable.
Lampard and Terry became very close friends during their playing days at Chelsea
The pair won three Premier League titles and a Champions League together at Chelsea
His early starts continue, with daily commutes up to Birmingham, and he keeps himself in excellent shape, posting his healthy breakfasts on Instagram. Sometimes it is avocado, wholemeal toast (no butter), and bacon (fat cut off). Others it is a protein shake of spinach, coconut milk banana, and oats. He regularly goes for runs of 5km and upwards.
At Bodymoor Heath that fitness helps. He has joined in with five-a-side games and does occasional one-on-one coaching with defenders and attackers. He put a clip of a tough drill with Tyrone Mings online.
‘If you ask all of the defenders they will say they have benefited from having JT on the coaching staff,’ Smith said last week. ‘He gives a bit of technical, tactical and psychological advice. An awful lot of detail.’
Terry has respected Smith’s authority and generally maintains a reserved presence, just as last season when he tried to stay out of the limelight by not doing captain’s programme notes.
He can come alive on the touchline though, as seen at the City Ground in March when he got into a spat with Roy Keane. Lampard had his own run-in with Keane in February, old hostilities dying hard evidently.
Jack Marriott celebrates after scoring the decisive goal for Derby against Leeds at Elland Road
Lampard has of course been much more visible than Terry, a consequence of being the manager and giving weekly media briefings. Always a good talker when a player, he has eased into a high-profile role impressively, never shirking a subject and offering genuine opinions at each question. He will go hard on occasions, but never for effect. He is gracious yet in control.
That is how Lampard started at Pride Park, aware of the need to trim the budget and selling before he could buy. Mayej Vydra was the obvious sale, eventually going to Burnley for £11million, so that Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn could come in. They were Lampard picks and he dealt with the agents personally. Both have proved successful.
His faith in Jayden Bogle has been rewarded and Derby now have another significant asset in the 18-year-old right-back, while Lampard was instrumental in loaning Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea, and Harry Wilson from Liverpool. Those Premier League clubs want their players versed in a certain style and Lampard has remained committed to a progressive approach. After being disappointed in the first-leg performance against Leeds he wanted bravery on the ball at Elland Road and got that in spades.
Lampard also encourages honest speaking among his players and there was a frank debrief following the 4-0 defeat to Villa in March that threatened to derail the campaign. Derby lost only one of their final 12 matches.
Tammy Abraham scored the decisive spot-kick as Villa overcame West Brom on penalties
There have also been robust conversations with owner Mel Morris, particularly in January when Lampard felt funds were needed for fresh faces. Ultimately Morris supplied the money to bring in Ashley Cole, another Chelsea oldboy.
Assistant Jody Morris is a crucial figure, another close friend to Terry. Morris often provides the light relief but also exacting standards. ‘He was my Chelsea coach from Under-16s to the youth team, he is able to keep me on my toes if I’m dropping below the levels he has seen me play at,’ Tomori told Sportsmail recently.
The Chelsea trio have been reunited twice this season, with Villa winning both by an aggregate of 7-0. Ahead of the first meeting, Lampard said: ‘You don’t have to cut ties as friends just because you work for different clubs. We are tight. But we won’t be comparing any notes this week.’
Wembley presents a real sliding doors scenario, with plenty of change ahead for whoever fails out of Derby and Villa. As for Lampard and Terry, after winning 11 major trophies together at Chelsea and 184 combined caps for England, it will be fascinating to observe who emerges on top.
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