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Rookie of the year? Frank Lampard’s Chelsea all set for in the top four and are in the FA Cup semis

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Frank Lampard won’t miss his annual dose of abuse at West Ham

They taunted him when he was a teenager in claret-and-blue and they cranked up the anger when he left them and crossed London to join rivals Chelsea.

Lampard used the hate to fuel his fire as he matured into one of the world’s finest midfielders, breaking goal records for his club and collecting 106 caps for his country.

Frank Lampard will return to former club West Ham as a coach for the first time on Wednesday

Frank Lampard will return to former club West Ham as a coach for the first time on Wednesday

Frank Lampard will return to former club West Ham as a coach for the first time on Wednesday

Lampard is used to abuse from Hammers fans from his Chelsea playing days (above)

Lampard is used to abuse from Hammers fans from his Chelsea playing days (above)

Lampard is used to abuse from Hammers fans from his Chelsea playing days (above) 

As he returns for the first time as a manager, he is still proving people wrong — well set for Champions League qualification in his first season as a Premier League manager and into the FA Cup semi-finals.

It hasn’t been entirely serene but Lampard has tackled problems and responded to setbacks with the same steely determination which underpinned his playing career. 

Only a fortnight before lockdown, Chelsea appeared to be losing their way. They were fourth, nine points from Leicester in third, with the pack closing in.

They salvaged a point with a late equaliser at Bournemouth after a drubbing by Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge and a home defeat against Manchester United. 

They were impressive against Tottenham, but those displays were increasingly scarce.

Before lockdown, Lampard's Chelsea appeared to be losing their way with inconsistent results

Before lockdown, Lampard's Chelsea appeared to be losing their way with inconsistent results

Before lockdown, Lampard’s Chelsea appeared to be losing their way with inconsistent results 

Chelsea escaped the doldrums by beating Liverpool in the FA Cup when Lampard thrust Billy Gilmour into midfield and the teenager ran the show, just as he did in a 4-0 win against Everton five days later.

Liverpool were understrength and Everton were downright awful that day, but Lampard has not dodged difficult decisions. One was to sell David Luiz without buying a replacement. 

Another was to drop Kepa Arrizabalaga, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper at £72million. He left out Christian Pulisic, signed for £58m, and preferred Mason Mount.

Moreover, insiders at Chelsea note a key difference to his predecessors. When things went wrong for Antonio Conte or Maurizio Sarri, the Italians would turn inwards, lines of communication broke down and trust would erode. 

The Blues have looked much better post-lockdown and Lampard is very much responsible

The Blues have looked much better post-lockdown and Lampard is very much responsible

The Blues have looked much better post-lockdown and Lampard is very much responsible 

Choices such as dropping goalkeeper Kepa, now back in the side, worked in Lampard's favour

Choices such as dropping goalkeeper Kepa, now back in the side, worked in Lampard's favour

Choices such as dropping goalkeeper Kepa, now back in the side, worked in Lampard’s favour

FRANK LAMPARD MANAGER STATS

  • 198 appearances for 13 different Chelsea academy graduates this season — the most for the club for 22 years, since 13 graduates made 206 appearances in 1997-98. 
  • Lampard is the first manager to do the league double over Jose Mourinho, beating the Portuguese’s Spurs side 2-0 away and 2-1 at home. 
  • He’d be the first Englishman to qualify for the Champions League with an English club since his uncle Harry Redknapp with Tottenham in 2010.
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Lampard, perhaps because he and his coaches understand the machinations of this peculiar club, has avoided the usual friction points.

His connection to the board via Petr Cech and Marina Granovskaia is healthy, even though he was unhappy at the failure to recruit players in January. 

Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner have since signed and officially become Chelsea players today.

So too the relationship with Neil Bath, head of youth development. The manager’s desire to give young players an opportunity — and the influence of coaches Jody Morris and Joe Edwards — has reinvigorated an academy renowned for years as the best in the country.

He demands hard work and high standards. And it is telling that while promoting the home-grown kids he has retained the loyalty of senior players.

Cesar Azpilicueta, who started the season badly, is back to his normal levels of consistency. Olivier Giroud, almost sold in January, has signed a new deal. Willian and Pedro have agreed to stay until the end of the season.

Lampard impressed with the manner in which he handled N’Golo Kante through phase one of the restart. Kante, wary and reluctant to return, was given the time he needed.

Players such as Cesar Azpilicueta are back to their usual selves under Lampard's stewardship

Players such as Cesar Azpilicueta are back to their usual selves under Lampard's stewardship

Players such as Cesar Azpilicueta are back to their usual selves under Lampard’s stewardship

The manager was firm and supportive, just as he was when Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi broke regulations.

On balance it was a good lockdown for Chelsea, who provided free meals and shelter for NHS workers, then pulled off an exciting burst of transfer activity.

The acquisition of Werner and the pursuit of Kai Havertz and Ben Chilwell will sharpen up the dressing room. A team flagging in February look fresh and hungry in midsummer.

‘Lockdown gave me some good reflection time,’ said Lampard yesterday. ‘When you’re playing all the time, you’re always looking to the next one. 

Lampard revealed that lockdown gave him a chance to reflect on his management skills

Lampard revealed that lockdown gave him a chance to reflect on his management skills

Lampard revealed that lockdown gave him a chance to reflect on his management skills

‘That was taken away and we had more time to reflect on how we train, how we work.

‘In a season you’re always going to get tested and have moments that aren’t so good. 

‘I came into the job in the summer and couldn’t make huge changes because of the transfer ban, and there was always going to be a slight element to work against this season to get to where we wanted to be.

‘I don’t think it was ever going to be plain sailing. So, to reflect was really positive for me and for us as a team. You can isolate things to work hard on which we’ve done.’

Chelsea have won five in a row, three since the restart, including last week’s victory over Manchester City which was a reminder of their potential. Suddenly they are only one point behind Leicester.

The Blues look in good stead to reach the top-four come the end of the 2019/20 season

The Blues look in good stead to reach the top-four come the end of the 2019/20 season

The Blues look in good stead to reach the top-four come the end of the 2019/20 season

Lampard, 42, will be a year in the job on Saturday — a milestone only Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Conte have reached under Roman Abramovich. 

Detractors might claim he was fortunate to be appointed, maybe even complain about privilege, as they did when he broke through at West Ham as the son of the coach and nephew of the manager.

But he has seized the chance and, if he produces a top-four finish despite losing Eden Hazard and enduring a transfer ban, this rookie manager’s first season in the top flight must go down as a resounding success. 

Not perfect and he knows that, hence his cautious tone. Chelsea are far from the top and next year the demands will change, but the vibe is positive once again at the Bridge.

They might not like it at West Ham, but on this occasion they won’t be there to let Lampard know what they think.

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Big races including the Derby are insured if coronavirus pandemic hits race meetings in 2021

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The Derby is one of the few sporting events to have multi-year insurance policies that provide cover for global pandemics — and the major race meetings are well placed to cope financially if the Government’s restrictions on mass gatherings continue into next year.

The Derby will take place at a deserted Epsom on Saturday, with the Oaks on the same card for the first time as the two-day meeting has been reduced to one. 

With so much uncertainty over the long-term impact of coronavirus, there are doubts about whether the usual crowd of more than 100,000 will be able to attend next year. 

Epsom is one of the few sporting events that will be covered by pandemic insurance next year

Epsom is one of the few sporting events that will be covered by pandemic insurance next year

Epsom is one of the few sporting events that will be covered by pandemic insurance next year

Wimbledon organisers admitted earlier this week that they cannot secure pandemic insurance cover for 2021 after claiming more than £100million to cover the losses from the cancellation of this year’s Championships.

But Sportsmail has learned that Epsom has a multi-year policy. Cheltenham and Aintree are also among a handful of major venues to have the multi-year cover — a legacy of a far-sighted decision taken by the Jockey Club following the foot and mouth crisis which led to the cancellation of the 2001 Cheltenham Festival. 

Standard race fixtures across the sport are not covered, but major meetings are insured — including Royal Ascot, which took place without crowds last month.

Epsom will be able to recover most of their lost ticket and hospitality revenue for Saturday’s meeting, worth tens of millions, through insurance.

Cheltenham and Aintree are also among a handful of major venues to have multi-year cover

Cheltenham and Aintree are also among a handful of major venues to have multi-year cover

Cheltenham and Aintree are also among a handful of major venues to have multi-year cover

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Ed Walker heads to Epsom seeking Derby glory for English King alongside Frankie Dettori

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Less than years after questioning where his career was going, trainer Ed Walker could on Saturday afternoon win the most prestigious prize in Flat racing.

The 37-year-old heads to a crowd-free Epsom seeking victory in the £500,000 Investec Derby with 7-2 favourite English King and with Frankie Dettori in his corner. 

It is a scenario Walker could not have dared to dream about as his training career threatened to be derailed by a nomadic existence that only ended when he moved into the Kingsdown House stables of English King’s owner Bjorn Nielsen in December 2016. 

Ed Walker is banking on English King and Frankie Dettori to provide him with a first Derby win

Ed Walker is banking on English King and Frankie Dettori to provide him with a first Derby win

Ed Walker is banking on English King and Frankie Dettori to provide him with a first Derby win

Five yards in six years, including a stint renting part of the famous Warren Place yard from where the late Sir Henry Cecil dominated British racing, had had a destabilising effect.

‘The insecurity and the uncertainty was pretty grim,’ recalls Walker. ‘I had four stables in Newmarket. Even when I moved to Warren Place I knew that was only going to be a temporary stop. 

‘It was a wonderful address and great history but kind of embarrassing having some of my moderate horses in those boxes. 

‘When I had to leave I was buying yearlings not knowing where they were going to be trained.

‘It was impossible to get into any sort of routine. My results crashed at the end of that season. I was driving around the country looking at yards, wondering whether we were going to move to Chantilly or Yorkshire. I didn’t know what we were going to do. It was a nightmare. 

‘There was a point where I thought, “I can’t deal with this any more”.’

An escape was offered by Nielsen, who was looking for someone to replace David Lanigan, who was heading back to Newmarket, and the agreement was sealed during a flying visit to meet his prospective landlord in New York.

Nielsen, a hedge-fund trader and investor, has won a St Leger with John Gosden-trained Masked Marvel in 2011 but the best-known horse to carry his colours is the triple Ascot Gold Cup winner Stradivarius, which he also bred. 

Walker admits that five yards in six years had a destabilising effect on his routine and results

Walker admits that five yards in six years had a destabilising effect on his routine and results

Walker admits that five yards in six years had a destabilising effect on his routine and results

But Nielsen’s biggest desire is to own a Derby winner. English King, a son of 2012 Derby winner Camelot who cost €210,000, was a 66-1 shot for Epsom before last month’s Lingfield Derby Trial and soon became the 6-1 joint favourite when he emerged the smooth two-and-three-quarter-length victor of the race won by last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck.

Walker said: ‘With Bjorn it is very straightforward — he buys these colts for one reason and for one reason only, and that is to win the Derby.

‘I would be lying if I said I thought English King was going to win like he did at Lingfield. It was only after getting home, watching the replays and seeing the times that you appreciated it and thought, “Crikey, that was a fairly serious performance”.’

If English King wins, he will not only deliver a first Classic for Walker but also a first Group One win.

It is that relative inexperience, plus Nielsen’s link to Dettori, which led to the two-time winning rider replacing Tom Marquand, who was on English King at Lingfield but who will now have his first Derby ride on Khalifa Sat. It will be Dettori’s 25th Derby.

Walker confesses that he was surprised at the manner of English King's triumph at Linfield

Walker confesses that he was surprised at the manner of English King's triumph at Linfield

Walker confesses that he was surprised at the manner of English King’s triumph at Linfield

Walker, a former assistant to dual Derby-winning trainer Luca Cumani, added: ‘They are worlds apart in terms of experience and I am totally inexperienced as well.

‘I can’t pat someone on the back and say this is what you need to do, because this is my first Derby runner.

‘I said to Tom, “You should be rooting for this horse because there is a good chance you will get back on him one day, because Frankie won’t be available and if I win the Derby I am likely to have more Derby chances and you and I will be a team partnering up a lot’.

‘We are going into it with a horse we know stays, are pretty sure will handle the track and should enjoy the ground. We also have the world’s greatest Group One jockey on board.

‘The big question is, is he good enough?’ 

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SAM TURNER’S TIPS FOR THE DERBY: Frankie Dettori and English King at Epsom… and all the best bets

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English King may not have found favour with the draw gods but he is still fancied to rule over his Investec Derby (Epsom, 4.55) rivals on Saturday afternoon.  

Historically, stall one has been a tough position to overcome with 1999 winner Oath the last horse to manage victory from the outside berth, and only three winners since 1969 have managed the feat.

The bookmakers were quick to ease English King in the betting once news of the draw emerged but that may prove hasty as the decision by connections to utilise Frankie Dettori may prove a masterstroke.

English King is fancied to outshine his rivals at the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday

English King is fancied to outshine his rivals at the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday

English King is fancied to outshine his rivals at the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday

The Italian takes his 25th ride in the world’s greatest Flat race and will arguably require all of his Epsom knowledge to deliver a third Derby win on Ed Walker’s talented colt.

However, English King displayed a number of useful attributes when landing the Lingfield Derby trial, not least the ability to travel well before quickening smartly off a strong pace.

He also proved a well-balanced individual given how he handled the turn into the Lingfield straight and the form of his comeback win was enhanced by the runner-up filling the same position in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.

IT’S A DIFFERENT DERBY 

For the first time in the race’s history, the 241st Derby will be run behind closed doors. Epsom and Walton Conservators have approved a three-and-a-half-mile fence around the racecourse to keep fans out. 

Owners will be allowed into the course but will be restricted to a separate zone. They can only stay on track for a limited time around their horse’s run. There will be a presentation for the winning jockey and trainer, then the owner.

The race has been pushed back to its latest-ever time of 4.55pm in the hope of attracting a bumper TV audience.

Prize money has been slashed by two thirds, with the Derby now worth £500,000.

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With English King drifting because of his stalls position, near neighbour Mogul in gate two has arguably been the best-backed horse of the week, despite posting a subdued comeback at Ascot behind Pyledriver in the King Edward VII Stakes.

It would be easy to write off his chance, given how he folded tamely into fourth at the furlong marker and was passed by Mohican Heights.

However, he looked like a horse which was desperately in need of the outing and the fact Ryan Moore rides the son of Galileo in preference to Hampton Court winner, Russian Emperor, suggests he doesn’t particularly rate that event as a valid Derby trial.

If Mogul is a strongly-backed second favourite, housed in a potentially tricky stall alongside English King, there is a theory Pyledriver and Mohican Heights, both of whom finished in front of him at Ascot, are overpriced.

The last named also appeared to be ridden with an eye on Saturday’s prestigious contest and, as a juvenile who won over a mile, he looks sure to progress for a stiffer test at 12 furlongs.

That may not be the case for Guineas hero Kameko, who appears likely to stay in excess of a mile given his run style, but Saturday’s trip and tackling proven middle-distance foes may find him out.

I can’t help thinking Kameko would have lined up in Sunday’s Coral-Eclipse Stakes if three-year-olds had been allowed this year and I’ll rely on Dettori to ensure English King’s Epsom coronation instead.

FRANKLY DARLING (Epsom, 3.40) may well set the Italian maestro on the road to a Classic double in the Investec Oaks.

The daughter of Frankel, trained by John Gosden, has inherited traits from her father as she was arguably too keen in the early stages of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot before landing the Group One prize.

She must settle a little better but she is fancied to trouble 1,000 guineas.

EPSOM 

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

1.50 Twaasol

2.25 Safe Voyage

3.00 Certain Lad

3.40 Frankly Darling

4.15 Fooraat

4.55 English King

5.35 Corazon Espinado (nb)

GIMCRACK  

 1.50 Modern News

2.25 Safe Voyage (nb)

3.00 Caradoc

3.40 Frankly Darling

4.15 Summer Romance

4.55 Kameko (nap)

5.35 Count Otto

And here are the rest of the best bets for Saturday’s racing…

HAYDOCK 

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

12.00 Redgrave

12.30 Triple Spear

1.00 Redrosezorro

1.30 Dubai Fountain

2.05 Made For All

2.40 Barossa Red (nap)

3.15 First Kingdom

3.50 Poet’s Lady

4.25 Arch Moon

GIMCRACK 

12.00 Redgrave

12.30 Blazing Hot

1.00 Redrosezorro

1.30 Dubai Fountain

2.05 Top Class Angel

2.40 The Met

3.15 Grande Rumore

3.50 Perfect Inch

4.25 Arch Moon

Newmarket – 1.30 Golden Melody (nb)

Northerner – 12.30 Royal Context (nb); 4.25 Arch Moon (nap).

CHELMSFORD CITY 

ROBIN GOODFELLOW 

4.35 Waddat

5.10 Al Watan

5.40 Jack Ryan

6.10 Al Dawodiya

6.40 Mubtasimah

7.10 Blame Culture

7.40 Arafi

8.10 Astro King

8.40 Paradise On Earth

GIMCRACK 

4.35 Waddat

5.10 Recovery Run

5.40 Mayson Mount

6.10 Yes Always

6.40 Billesdon Brook

7.10 Coverham

7.40 Arafi

8.10 Astro King

8.40 Flying West 

YARMOUTH 

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

5.20 Voi

5.55 Hidden Sky

6.25 Songkran

6.55 Ventura Tormenta

7.25 Tsar

7.55 Steal The Scene

8.25 Inner Circle

8.55 Ice Ice Lady

GIMCRACK 

5.20 Capla Huntress

5.55 Arabian Romance

6.25 Songkran

6.55 Surprise Picture

7.25 Tsar

7.55 Roca Magica

8.25 Penarth Pier

8.55 Ice Ice Lady 

GOODFELLOW’S SUNDAY BEST

HAYDOCK 

12.00 Andronicus Beau

12.30 Bungee Jump

1.00 Snazzy Jazzy

1.30 Theatro (nb)

2.05 Duke Of Condicote

2.40 Manuela De Vega

3.15 BABBO’S BOY (nap)

3.50 Lincoln Park

4.20 Internationangel

SANDOWN  

 1.15 Risk Of Thunder

1.50 Liberty Beach

2.25 Cross Counter

3.00 Montatham

3.35 Ghaiyyath

4.05 Global Giant

4.35 Tulip Fields

5.10 Eshaasy  

DONCASTER

1.40 Zookeeper

2.15 Ikebana

2.50 Jumaira Bay

3.25 Rose Hip

4.00 Camacho Chief

4.30 Absolute Dream

5.00 Without A Fight

5.35 Doctor Cross

6.05 Sports Reporter

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