Having waited almost a year for another shot at top-level management, Frank Lampard has been tasked with as tough a challenge as it gets: resurrecting an Everton side in turmoil.
It is not the best time to be a Toffees supporter, and protests outside Goodison Park have become commonplace.
Fans have called for the board to be sacked, pleaded with the club last summer not to appoint former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, and made clear — in graffiti as well — their opposition to the proposed hiring of Vitor Pereira over Lampard.
✍️ | Everton Football Club can confirm the appointment of Frank Lampard as the Club’s new manager.— Everton (@Everton) January 31, 2022
The fact that the unpopular appointment of Benitez, who won the Champions League with bitter local rivals Liverpool in 2005, went so badly wrong has made the atmosphere at Goodison even more toxic.
Lampard takes over a club four points above the Premier League relegation zone, and facing the distinct possibility of finding themselves competing outside the top tier of English football for the first time in almost 70 years next season.
The problems at the club go beyond the dressing room. Marcel Brands left his position as director of football in December after making a string of signings that failed to deliver, and a successor has yet to be found.
Benitez was still able to make some signings before he was sacked in mid-January, with several names mentioned as last-minute potential arrivals before the January transfer window closes on Monday night, adding to the feeling of chaos at the club.
️ | "It is a huge honour for me to represent and manage a club the size and tradition of Everton Football Club."Frank Lampard's first interview as our manager is now live!
— Everton (@Everton) January 31, 2022
MUCH TO PROVE
As for Lampard, regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation, the jury is still out on his capabilities as a manager.
All went well initially for Lampard as a coach, and he narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League with second-tier Derby County in his first season as a manager.
He then landed his dream role in 2019 at Chelsea, where he won three league titles and a Champions League crown as a player and remains the club's all-time top goalscorer.
Frank’s message to Evertonians. pic.twitter.com/Q3y7srlIzv— Everton (@Everton) January 31, 2022
His appointment drew much acclaim, especially in view of his willingness to blood youth academy players, and his young side went on to finish fourth and get to the FA Cup final in 2019-20, although they ended the season without any silverware.
A big transfer outlay in the summer of 2020 appeared to set Chelsea up for a title challenge, but with the club languishing in ninth in the standings in January last year, Lampard was relieved of his duties.
The fact that they went on to win the Champions League just months after replacing him with Thomas Tuchel shows the potential of the squad the former England midfielder had at his disposal, and why question marks hang over his managerial prowess.
"He's a lucky man," former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino told talkSPORT last week. "He hasn't earned his stripes as in what he's achieved to be Chelsea manager or Everton manager.
"He's the manager with a silver spoon in his mouth. A lot has happened for Frank because of how good he was as a player."
A mutinous Everton will represent the ultimate test of whether Lampard can have anything like as successful a career as a coach as he did as a player.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christian Radnedge)