Frank Lampard's time at Derby could go gloriously right or spectacularly wrong
If nothing else, you can't accuse Frank Lampard of taking an easy route into management. The former Chelsea and England midfielder's coaching career will begin at Derby County, theoretically a terrific job with the resources in place to succeed.
The trouble is, it's been theoretically a terrific job with the resources in place to succeed for the six previous managers who, throughout the past five years, have briefly paused in Lampard's new chair. For the fifth year in a row, Derby will begin the season with a different manager to the one who started the previous one.
Since Nigel Clough was sacked in 2013, they have tried more or less everything: an established big-name manager (Steve McClaren), a coach with strong international pedigree (Paul Clement), a hometown coach who rose through the ranks (Darren Wassall), a firm-handed disciplinarian with gritty experience (Nigel Pearson), a second chance for the big name (McClaren again) and a Championship specialist with a history of getting the most from limited resources (Gary Rowett).
The only thing that links those names is a nationality (English), but otherwise a full range of managers have tried and ultimately failed to return to the Premier League, seeming to find new and elaborate ways of missing out on promotion. All of this despite hefty spending on transfers, a fine stadium and one of the most reliable fan bases in the Championship.
It's been a pretty chaotic few years in a pretty chaotic division, at a club where patience has often been an absent virtue. So from Derby's perspective, you can understand taking a chance on Lampard; why not, after all? None of the other ideas seem to have worked, and next season will be their 11th outside the top flight, their longest exile in 50 years. It's worth a shot.
Still, there would have been compelling arguments against appointing Lampard now. Not least because towards the end of last season, chairman and owner Mel Morris (who made most of his fortune through Candy Crush, the addictive mobile game) admitted that the days of laying out transfer fees like the £8 million they spent on Matej Vydra or £7 million on Tom Lawrence were over, for now.
"We have to get the cost base under control," said Morris in March, as Derby were attempting to secure their place in the playoffs, where they eventually lost to Fulham in the semifinals. "If we don't pull it off this year, we will not be making significant investment in the summer to try and have another season like this one."
From that perspective, Lampard might seem a curious appointment. A key benefit of bringing in a big name such as his would be to attract a higher-calibre (or at least higher-profile) player, but if you don't have the money to pay for them, that's not much use.
Perhaps the theory -- which makes even more sense considering Jody Morris, coach of Chelsea's under-18s team, is set to arrive as assistant manager -- is to use Lampard's contacts to bring in relatively cheap loan signings.
But it's clear that this is going to be a test of Lampard's man management and coaching ability; a gamble for Derby given we don't know what Lampard's coaching ability is, this being his first job, but a brilliant opportunity for him.
This would seem to be a perfect-size job for Lampard: not so small as to make success unlikely, but not so big as to be, well, too big.
"I was under no illusions I was going to walk into a job at the top end of the Premier League and say 'here I am'," Lampard told the Daily Telegraph. "I was very prepared to take on what might be, hence why I'm so flattered a club the size of Derby County have put their trust in me, so I can only try to repay that with hard work and doing the job."
Lampard doesn't quite have a blank slate, but he does have a squad featuring players who could/should be in the Premier League. "I'm not coming in here to fix something that's broken -- it's not broken," he said at his introductory news conference.
He will also have that squad's attention. This is not just because he was a highly decorated player, but one who certainly seems to have a sound football brain and clear communication. He's also unlikely to suffer from "Glenn Hoddle syndrome", where a brilliant player can't quite fathom how those he coaches can't do what he can. Lampard had his gifts, but as he said at his unveiling, he wrung the absolute most from his talents.
Of course this is all in theory, and the Championship is a place where theories go to die. This is a division ruled by chaos, where there is no reliable formula for success, where money guarantees nothing and where the implausible happens with frequency. This is perhaps the most interesting managerial appointment in years, simply because of its capacity to go spectacularly wrong or gloriously right.
As a place to start his managerial career, this certainly isn't a straightforward one for Lampard. But it could be the right one.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.