Frank Lampard’s date with destiny draws near as Everton’s woes continue

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Frank Lampard’s fate lies in the hands of others as Everton’s Premier League troubles have continued.

Blue mist descended over the Goodison Park pitch as Everton’s famous old home witnessed one of the most memorable nights in recent history.

Just minutes earlier, The Toffees had ensured their record as a Premier League ever-present was preserved for another season after they overturned a two-goal deficit to secure a dramatic win against Crystal Palace. For 45 minutes, it looked as if their status as one of only six clubs to feature in each and every Premier League season was under threat as Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew goals gave the Eagles a comfortable lead at half-time.

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There were more than murmurs of discontent when the second-half got underway - but anger was the energy Everton fed upon as Michael Keane, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored to produce a remarkable turnaround and ensure survival was secured in the penultimate game of a long and draining season.

As the Goodison Park faithful poured on to the hallowed turf and Frank Lampard and his players took their acclaim, vivid memories of a Barry Horne-inspired survival of the past and thoughts of a brighter future were all too evident.

Yet something still didn’t feel quite right. The Chelsea legend has never felt like a natural fit for the home dugout during the final years at the club’s home of over 130 years. Given the disharmony and anger caused by the appointment of former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, it seemed likely any successor to the Spaniard would be welcomed with open arms.

Yet even then, even with the survival job successfully negotiated, even with a man that delivered Champions League glory for their cross-city rivals now a thing of the past, Lampard’s own reign as Toffees manager has always felt limited.

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There have been promising moments during the early years of his managerial career. Working with young players and offering them a chance to develop seems to be a skill after he brought the best out of the likes of Reece James and Mason Mount during loan spells at Derby County before handing them a chance to shine at Chelsea when he completed a surprise return to the club where he enjoyed so much success as a player. Current Everton forward Anthony Gordon has also improved under Lampard.

Frank Lampard, manager of Everton, reacts during the Premier League loss against BrightonFrank Lampard, manager of Everton, reacts during the Premier League loss against Brighton
Frank Lampard, manager of Everton, reacts during the Premier League loss against Brighton

Working in difficult circumstances

It should be pointed out that his best work at Chelsea came in difficult circumstances as a transfer embargo forced Lampard to give youth a chance and work with the squad he inherited from predecessor Maurizio Sarri. A run to the FA Cup Final and qualification for the Champions League offered hope but Lampard’s problems came when the embargo was lifted and he was allowed to work in the transfer market for the first time.

After spending over £200m on the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, Lampard was sacked in January 2021 with the Blues sat five points adrift of the Champions League places and 11 points behind then-leaders Manchester United. Lampard’s mood upon his departure was one of disappointment and it would hardly have been helped as he watched on from afar as successor Thomas Tuchel led his squad to a Champions League Final win over Premier League rivals Manchester City.

Lampard gave several academy products a chance to shine at Chelsea  (Photo by Phil Noble/Pool via Getty Images)Lampard gave several academy products a chance to shine at Chelsea  (Photo by Phil Noble/Pool via Getty Images)
Lampard gave several academy products a chance to shine at Chelsea (Photo by Phil Noble/Pool via Getty Images) | 2020 Pool

Fast forwarding to his time on Merseyside, the summer departure of Richarlison delivered a monumental blow to Lampard’s plans for his first season in charge of Everton - but he was allowed to dip into the transfer market with the likes of Lille midfielder Amadou Onana, highly-rated Burnley winger Dwight McNeill and former Toffees star Idrissa Gueye all joining the club.

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A long desired defensive discipline was also targeted with Burnley centre-back James Tarkowski and Wolves star Conor Coady both agreeing to join Lampard’s squad. Yet the momentum built up by their escape was relegation failed to extend into the current season as the new look Toffees took until their seventh league game to claim a win as a Neal Maupay goal was the difference in a Goodison Park meeting with West Ham United.

Brighton presence only heightens frustration and anger

That remains one of only three wins and questions over Lampard’s long-term prospects were already being asked by the time the former England midfielder witnessed his side conceded three goals in just six minutes as Brighton and Hove Albion eased to a 4-1 win at Goodison Park on Tuesday night.

The anger was largely directed at club owner Farhad Moshiri, with cries of ‘Sack the Board’ filling the air in the aftermath of a chastening 90 minutes. The presence of Brighton, a club widely regarding as well-ran to a structured plan despite having what many would consider to be an inferior history compared to the Toffees, will have only heightened the frustration and anger of the home faithful.

The calls for action from the board shows where Everton fans feel the main issues within their club lie and it is Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright that have overseen a number of questionable appointments and a failure to really re-establish one of English football’s most historic clubs as a consistent challenger to the current big six.

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It seems cruel, given their own shortcomings and lack of planning, that both men hold Lampard’s fate within their hands. The problems at Everton seem to go far deeper than the current occupier of the home dugout - but it feels almost inevitable Lampard will be the fall guy as a dark mood has replaced the plooms of blue smoke released during a time of celebration at Goodison Park.

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