By Lazarus Zakaa, Abuja
Frank Lampard is letting his actions speak louder than words in terms of his commitment to Chelsea’s Academy graduates and yet it was a few simple words in the ears of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount that helped to inspire his first victory as the club’s head coach.
Call it mind games, kidology or simply clever management, but Lampard sent Abraham out with the message that it was going to be his day at Carrow Road and had also got into the head of 20-year-old Mount.
Lampard afterwards admitted that there was no way he could have known whether or not Abraham would score his first goals against Norwich City, but the striker responded with a double.
Abraham had suffered a testing start to the season, having returned to Chelsea from a season on loan in the Championship with Aston Villa.
He was racially abused after missing the decisive penalty in the Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and had already found himself under scrutiny by some supporters and pundits.
But, he has restored to the starting line-up ahead of Olivier Giroud, Abraham came up with the perfect response after just three minutes when he brilliantly volleyed Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross into the net.
It was Abraham’s first senior goal for the club and he celebrated by running straight to Lampard. There was a second to come after the break, when his low drive beat goalkeeper Tim Krul and secured all three points.
“I loved the celebration,” said Lampard. “I spoke to him before the game and said that I felt that today was the day for him. It was a bit of kidology before the game, really, but I do trust in him and I know that as a striker, a young striker, you do need that support and I genuinely mean that.
“He’s had a tough little period for reasons we all know and strikers get judged purely on goals at times and sometimes that’s slightly unfair. I just defended and supported him on that as much as I can. On playing, hopefully, he’ll see my belief on him in terms of selection. From the fact he is playing. The fact I want to do extra finishing and shooting with him every day. The finish today for first one was top drawer. I’ve seen him sky a few of those in training, but you keep going and then you catch one and you score.”
On the influence of Lampard, Abraham added: “I didn’t even know how to celebrate, so I just ran over to the management and the staff. It always gives confidence to me and the young boys when the coach believes in you.”
The travelling supporters could not have been happier to see Abraham become the first English striker to score for Chelsea since Daniel Sturridge in 2012 and the first Englishman to net a brace since Lampard himself in the same year.
They were also delighted by Mount’s second goal in two games after Lampard had decided to move the midfielder forwards into attack and bring in Ross Barkley, following Pedro’s hamstring injury in the warm up.
Mount smashed the ball past Krul after collecting Christian Pulisic’s smart pass to help justify Lampard’s decision to send out the youngest Chelsea team since 1994 against newly-promoted Norwich.
“I spoke to Mason on Friday and asked him if he felt like he was a Chelsea player yet because it is important,” said Lampard. “Important that he feels like he is a big player because we were young today. Mason and Tammy, but also Andreas Christensen are Kurt Zouma are still a little bit young and have to grow up very quickly and have personality and be leaders on the pitch. I thought the spirit showed today.”
Asked how Mount responded to his question, Lampard added: “He just sort of smiled. He’s a confident boy, in a really nice way because he’s got a humility and a work ethic.
“He smiled and we had a laugh, but I didn’t really get a clear answer. But he should feel like it (a Chelsea player) if he plays like he is at the moment. And that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. He needs to work on getting better daily because he’s a player who trains like it’s a chance to improve and we need that feeling through the team.”
Chelsea so nearly shot themselves in the foot by allowing Norwich to twice equalise in the first half, through Todd Cantwell, just 156 seconds after Abraham’s opener, and then Teemu Pukki who now has five goals for the season. Ben Godfrey hit the crossbar after Abraham had restored the Blues’ lead in the second .
Pukki has started the season superbly, but Norwich head coach Daniel Farke was clear on his priority by saying: “He delivered with a goal and an assist. I was pleased with him, but I’m not interested in him winning the Golden Boot. I’m interested in the points.”
Norwich have conceded eight goals in their first three games, but Farke added: “In each of the games we have been competitive. We don’t have to raise the white flag. If we try to defend with this group of young players we have no chance. The pressure will be too much on us. We have to be on the front foot, attack and dominate possession. We caused Chelsea big problems.”
Lampard admitted that his first victory in charge had come as a relief, but was not planning any big celebrations.
He said: “If celebration means a couple of glasses of wine while watching the baby monitor this evening and watching Match of the Day then that will be it. That’s the way life is these days!
“I am happy, very happy with the result. Because you can’t get away from it at Chelsea, we want to win games, I want to stay in contention. I didn’t want a slow start. We had a tough start and I have got to say I am happy with a lot of the performances. But you can’t shout that too loudly if you aren’t winning games. So it changes it for me today.”