Frank Lampard said Chelsea’s transfer embargo did not force his hand to play young forward Tammy Abraham, who has surged to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts.
With Chelsea currently banned from bringing in new players, Lampard has relied heavily on Abraham and fellow youngsters Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori.
But the Blues boss said he always believed the time was right for Abraham, who had spells on loan with Bristol City, Swansea and Aston Villa, to be handed his chance with Chelsea this term.
Abraham, 21, hit a hat-trick against Wolves on Saturday to take his Premier League tally to seven for the season, level with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.
“I never had clear expectations for him, only the fact that I believed in him and trusted in him,” Lampard told reporters on Monday.
“I know a lot has been made about the ban giving young players opportunities but I felt the time was right for Tammy to have his opportunity at this club anyway, because of the quality he has got.
“I’m really delighted that he has got his goals. I think there’s even more to come.
“He’s in a good place, a place that just requires him to sustain and improve even more and I think with his mentality and the way he is every day I hope to see that.”
Abraham is set for his Champions League debut against Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, while for Lampard it will be a first match in the tournament as manager.
Lampard, who lifted the Champions League as a Chelsea player in 2012, said: “I’ll be proud to do it. I had multiple incredible nights in the Champions League — and some bad ones — and it is the ultimate in club football for me.”
Chelsea face a Valencia side in a certain amount of disarray with the players currently refusing to talk to the media in protest at last week’s sacking of popular manager Marcelino, despite winning the Copa del Rey and securing Champions League football last season.
Instead, former Real Madrid assistant Albert Celades will be in the Spanish club’s dug-out.
“I’m aware of what’s going on, but at the same time it doesn’t affect our approach,” said Lampard.
“We are going up against a quality team. But in my experience of moments like this, when there is an issue as collective, as a team, as a group against the media or the outside world, generally it makes the group tighter.
“Sometimes it can be a positive as much as a negative on the pitch.”
Lampard will be without defender Antonio Rudiger due to a groin injury, while N’Golo Kante and Callum Hudson-Odoi are not match fit.