Exclusive: Chelsea legend Pat Nevin on Lampard and Benitez amid Celtic links

By Euan Davidson

January 26, 2021

Celtic academy graduate Pat Nevin is inextricably linked to Chelsea Football Club.

During a five-year spell at the club, Scottish international Nevin made 245 appearances. A tricky winger with bags of pace, he was a favourite with the Stamford Bridge faithful, and remains so.

In fact, he writes a weekly column for the club’s official website. Today, he was tasked with dissecting the exit of Frank Lampard, and what it means for the players.

What better opportunity, then, to talk to the boyhood Celtic fan about the Lampard links to Neil Lennon’s job?

I phoned up the Glasgow-born ex-Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers man, also a popular pundit and DJ, to get his take on the latest rumours.

Pat Nevin: Chelsea legend / (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC Via Getty Images)

Ex-Celtic academy graduate Pat Nevin on Lampard’s sacking

First off, I asked Pat about Chelsea’s decision to sack Frank Lampard.

“I’m really disappointed. I’m slightly biased because I know Frank, and I like Frank. He’s honest, good integrity to him. He’s got a similar situation which happened to David Moyes at Manchester United.

“They were told when they got the job, it was “look, take 2 or 3 years, start building a dynasty”. Frank did that, David Moyes did that. They brought in youngsters, didn’t go and splash all the money early on.

“He had money to spend in the summer time, and obviously, I don’t know if they were all his decision to be fair, but [he signed] young players that are going to develop. Particularly Werner and Havertz. And then they say “well actually, it’s not that.”

“It’s a bit weird, because you think you know what the rules are. But the rules in football are simple: win. That’s it. Everything else if you’re a manager is secondary.

“On the other hand, [sacking managers] works a treat for Chelsea. They keep on winning things, they keep on being successful. I’m disappointed it’s happened to Frank, but like the number 22 bus from Barlanark into the town, there’ll be another one along in a minute.”

“If he wants, he’ll have [a long career]. He had a young team and no money last year, and he got [Chelsea] into the top four. He got his team back into the FA Cup Final, which is pretty damn good as well. Even this season, their Champions League run has been good.”

 “6 weeks ago he was top of the league. Albeit for the last four or five weeks, all of those games I’ve been at, and they had more possession of the ball, although they looked a bit toothless. I think people will look at him and think ‘actually, he’s actually got some clout, he’s got some abilities’.”

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard for England / (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Lampard and Celtic: a good fit?

We then talked about whether Lampard would succeed at Celtic, and whether or not he’d actually want the job.

Nevin said:

“He’s going to have to take a step away from the top level in England. I think Celtic’s a big ask at that point in time. It would be one hell of a chance to take. I’d expect him to go maybe abroad. Celtic’s a massive job and the expectations are exactly the same as the expectations at Chelsea.

“Frying pan and fire, you know?

“One thing I would say that Frank would bring to wherever he goes to: his connections are amazing. The way he’s liked in the game is amazing. The players he could get, particularly at a Scottish club… I’ve ran a Scottish club myself before. One of the biggest things you can get is to tap into other markets, and get players you otherwise wouldn’t get.

“Frank’s pretty special on that level.

“His philosophy is not massively different to Celtic’s, or what I think of Celtic. My thoughts on Celtic go back to being a fanatical fan, and ended in the Boy’s Club. We lived under the rule of score an early goal and press on regardless, the Celtic Way.

“That’s how Frank is. It might look a bit gung-ho. But my thoughts of what Celtic is as a club, an ethos is, is that. He’s not brainless in not leaving anyone at the bank, but if Frank is considered anything, that’s the way he’s considered.

“You don’t want negativity, you don’t want somebody who goes one up and holds it. It’s just not the Celtic way. Frank’s not that, he’s much more positive.

“What you want is an ethos, and certainly that’s what I think of when I think of Celtic. He’s not a bad fit for that.”

Rafa Benitez: “What a guy”, says Nevin / (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images)

Pat Nevin on the other ex-Chelsea option…

There is, of course, another option.

It doesn’t look likely, but Rafa Benitez was sensationally linked with a move to Celtic. Nevin, for his part, claims that if the opportunity to hire the Spaniard becomes a possibility, the Bhoys must do it.

“To be honest, Rafa is phenomenal. He did an amazing job at Newcastle. I spent time with him down at Chelsea; what a brilliant bloke.

“[He’s] an honourable chap. That guy knows the game inside-out. If I was any club looking for a manager, any club at any level of football just now, I’d run over hot coals to get that guy.

“Rafa would be amazing. That’s a gold-standard kind of guy.”