Politics, Sport

COVID restrictions are to stay for now, and Lampard sacked as Chelsea manager.

For once, Boris Johnson has made the right decision.

Boris Johnson confirmed today that England’s schools would remain closed until at least the 8th March, adding that there was not yet enough data to make a decision on taking the country back out of lockdown. This was absolutely the right call. This wave of coronavirus that we’ve been suffering through has arguably been even worse than the initial wave. There has been a far higher average of daily new cases in this most recent wave and we have regularly seen over 1,000 COVID related deaths reported in a single day. But the measures have had an effect. The number of hospitalisations for COVID-19 have fallen in certain areas around England. The number of cases and deaths will continue to rise for a few weeks yet, but the data concerning R rate of infection has also dropped from between 1.2 and 1.4 to between 0.8 and 1.

These restrictions are not good news for anyone. They disrupt our routines that we have largely use to structure our lives. For a very many people, it has meant they can’t go to work, to bring in money and be able to provide for their families and the current rules do not allow that. Nothing is how we were used to. Shopping is now something done from home and delivered. When we speak to family members, we don’t speak face to face anymore. We have to speak via video call or on the phone. Even something like exercising has changed in its makeup. Social norms have had to change and we won’t be getting anywhere close to them for a while yet.

The best thing that the government could do right now is keep the restrictions in place while they work to vaccinate as many people as they can, as quickly as they can. The chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance has already made the prediction that we will be living with coronavirus, in a controlled manner, for the rest of our lives. Because for the easing of any restrictions to be safe and not lead to another surge in cases and deaths, the rate of transmission has to be well, well down and the most vulnerable and more need to have been vaccinated. When the government tried easing restrictions before, we ultimately ended up in an even worse mess. As much as we may despise them, the restrictions need to stay in place.

Frank Lampard brutally sacked as Abramovich seeks an upturn in form

Frank Lampard is out as Chelsea manager and Thomas Tuchel is in. I’m devastated to be honest. I wanted Lampard to succeed as the manager, I really did. But he spoke at his unveiling about not wanting to be treated any differently than anyone else just because of his history with the club. Well, he got that. Chelsea operated as they have ever since Roman Abramovich took control of the club. Chelsea have always been a club where if you are not producing the results the board wants to see, you’re gone. No matter what you may have contributed to the club before, no matter what success you may have helped bring. Roberto Di Matteo was sacked four months after winning the Champions League. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked after two years when he won the first domestic double in the club’s history and finished a close run second the season after. Chelsea are quick to wield the axe if they don’t think the manager is going to quickly improve things.

Lampard did an awful lot right in his tenure. The club can no longer continue to treat the academy as a sideshow. All the players who have performed best for Chelsea and Lampard this season are players who were introduced into the squad last summer when Frank didn’t have a transfer budget to play with. Instead, he had to turn to the likes of Tammy Abraham and particularly Mason Mount, who has been my player of the season so far. And the squad that Thomas Tuchel inherits is one that is ready and has the talent, in my opinion, to be challenging for silverware quickly. But form had turned and that is never a good sign at Chelsea. I think, as well, that this has been a formative experience for Frank Lampard as a manager. He’s had his first experience for having to manage big-name players as well as try to maintain a positive working relationship with a board with very high demands. But Frank played for the club under this leadership. He saw countless managers get sacked. He will have surely known that this was the expectation. And as much as some may mock or question the model, it is one that has worked very well for Chelsea in the past. But Frank Lampard is not done. He faced questions over whether he only got the Chelsea job because of his history as a player. He faced similar criticism early on in his playing career at West Ham, when Harry Redknapp (his uncle) was manager. That will drive him on to prove he is a top-level manager that deserves to be offered these kinds of jobs.

After the amount of money that was spent in the transfer window last year, expectations were always going to go up. And from what has been reported since Lampard’s departure, the expectation was to challenge for the title, or at least to close the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City. Clearly, the board felt that Lampard had not achieved that thus far, and was not going to arrest the slide in form. If it were up to me, I would have given Lampard until the end of the season, to try and match last season’s league finish and see if he could better last season in the cup competitions. And if the reports are true, Lampard was on a two-year-deal with an option of a third. So, they could have simply told him they were not going to activate it if Lampard had not matched last season. However, it’s not up to me. And the club acted how they felt they needed to. I do hope that we may see Frank Lampard back in the dugout as Chelsea manager one day, maybe a little wiser for his experience in the last 18 months. But, for now, it is time to back Thomas Tuchel and back the team as we always have done.

This was written prior to kick-off in Wednesday’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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