Frank Lampard says guiding Derby County to the Championship play-off final is a comparable feeling to anything he achieved in his playing career.
The former England and Chelsea player’s side fought back from 2-0 down on aggregate to beat Leeds United 4-3 over two legs and reach Wembley.
It is Lampard’s first season as a manager, after retiring in 2017.
“In terms of personal achievement, the feeling is as much as I’ve had in football,” said the 40-year-old.
“It’s not the personal achievement of being able to win stuff at Chelsea, but in terms of how I feel right now, it’s up there.
“I was fortunate in my playing career in the Champions League, winning leagues.
“But when you come here at the start of the season and you feel the club and the fans and the position the club were in, to be here tonight, they’re heroes,” Lampard added on BBC Radio Derby.
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Their 4-2 victory at Elland Road meant Derby became the first team to recover from losing the first leg of a Championship play-off semi-final at home to reach the final, where they will face Aston Villa at Wembley on 27 May.
“The pressure as a manager is more intense than a player,” Lampard added. “I wanted this so badly. You worry you want it too badly. I’m very proud.
“It means a great deal. From day one since I came in we have had issues, as every club has, and there have been ups and downs.
“We’ve done something that has not been done before.”
Lampard’s playing records
- Won 13 trophies as a player with Chelsea including three Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the 2012 Champions League
- Only Ryan Giggs (632) and Gareth Barry (615) have made more Premier League appearances than Lampard (609).
- His total of 177 goals is the Premier League’s fourth highest behind Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole.
- He has scored more goals from outside the box than any other Premier League player (41).
- Lampard scored against a record 39 different teams in the Premier League.
- No England player has scored as many penalties as Lampard (nine), excluding shootouts.
Lampard’s rollercoaster managerial debut
Lampard’s first season in charge has not been plain sailing – he saw his side thumped by Leeds 4-1 in his first home game as manager back in August.
While the Rams beat Manchester United on penalties at Old Trafford in the Carabao Cup in September, he was embroiled in the ‘spygate’ scandal in January after Leeds were found to have sent a member of staff to observe a Derby training session ahead of their meeting at Elland Road which Derby went on to lose 2-0.
Two wins in 10 league games between mid-February and April meant they drop to eighth in the table, but four wins and two draws in their last six games ensured Derby secured the final play-off place.
“This is Frank’s first season,” owner Mel Morris told BBC Radio Derby.
“No-one’s ever done this before; one more big game to go, but what an achievement already. I thought tonight we deserved the win by a long shot.
“All the stuff that’s gone before between the clubs, but I said tonight, 4-1, 2-0, 1-0, it’s about time they took a tanking from us.”