Everton has hired a new manager. He’s one of England all-time great players — one of its five best this century* — and the all-time leading scorer for a massive Premier League team.
But that new manager isn’t Wayne Rooney, Manchester United’s all-time scoring leader, who began and ended his Premier League career with Everton. It’s Frank Lampard, the former Chelsea star.
Lampard is Chelsea’s career leader in goals. He scored 147 times for Chelsea and 30 times for his two other EPL clubs (West Ham and Manchester City). Lampard played 106 times for England, scoring 29 goals. All those goals, despite being a midfielder.
Rooney scored 183 times for Manchester United. He contributed 25 goals for Everton. In 120 appearances for England, he knocked in 53 goals, making him the all-time leading scorer for England as well as Man U.
Lampard has two-plus years of managerial experience. In his first season, he led Derby County of the second tier to the promotion playoffs, where the Rams fell short. In his second, he guided Chelsea to fourth place in the Premier League (and thus a Champions League place) and a spot in the FA Cup final, where the Pensioners lost to Arsenal. However, the following season, Lampard was sacked in January with his team languishing in ninth place.
Lampard seems like a pretty good choice for Everton. He has had success managing in the EPL. He commands respect. He’s dynamic and, by all accounts, tactically astute or at least up-to-date.
Lampard stands in contrast to Everton’s last two managers, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez, both of whom have won at the highest level, but are old-timers. He’s also English, another departure from the norm. In this century, Sam Allardyce is the only other English manager Everton has had (other than interim bosses), and Big Sam managed us for only half a season during which he was always considered a stop-gap.
Lampard better be good right away. We’re sitting in 16th place just 4 points ahead of the drop zone, and injuries are mounting. I’m no longer fully confident that we’re too good to be relegated.
Was Everton interested in Rooney as a manager? The answer seems to be yes. Reportedly, the team contacted him about an interview. But despite expressing some initial interest in the job, Rooney declined. He said:
Everton approached my agent and asked me to interview for the job but I turned it down. I believe I will be a Premier League manager and I am ready for that 100 per cent. But I have a job at Derby, which is important to me.
To say that Rooney has a job at Derby is an understatement. He has a massive job — keeping the Rams from being relegated to England’s third tier in the face of a 21 point deduction.
I discussed the trials and tribulations of Rooney at Derby County in this post. At the time, Derby had been penalized 12 points for breach of financial regulations.
Initially, the deduction — the equivalent of four wins — seemed likely to condemn Derby to the drop. After all, the Rams had barely avoided that fate last season, during which Rooney took over the faltering club during the season, and were unable to strengthen the squad during the summer due to lack of funds.
Yet, Rooney had coaxed some pretty results out of his team. Thus, I wrote:
The Rams are currently are within nine points of the safety zone with a game in hand and 38 more to play. If they continue to play reasonably good football and get through the January transfer window relatively undamaged, they might make up the 12 deducted points and produce a sequel to last year’s great escape.
However, I warned, “there are rumors that Derby County may face an additional deduction of points [and] that would almost surely end any dream of remaining in Tier 2.”
Soon thereafter, the additional deduction came down — nine more points, bringing the total to 21.
But Derby County has chugged along. As I write this, the Rams are seven points from safety. They would already have cleared the relegation zone had the additional points not been deducted.
With 18 matches left to play, the chances are fairly good that Derby County will stay up. Rooney is determined to make that happen.
Rooney deserves credit for not abandoning the ship. He must have been tempted to seek an EPL job with his boyhood club.
It’s possible that he didn’t expect to get the job and therefore thought it best not to throw his hat in the ring. Rooney might have sensed that, with so much at stake, Everton’s management wouldn’t trust the team to someone with no experience as boss of an EPL (or another top European league) team.
But the very fact that Rooney stayed at Derby County after two successive point deductions, the first of which he had to hear about on television, speaks well of him. Few would have blamed him for leaving the club.
My hope is that Rooney will keep Derby County up this year and that one day he will manage Everton. But only after a good run under his fellow England legend Super Frankie Lampard.
* The five, in alphabetical order, are: Steve Gerard, Harry Kane, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, and John Terry. No one else comes close to cracking the list, in my opinion.