Frank Lampard Chelsea rumours were expected by Derby's Richard Keogh

Frank Lampard celebrates Derby's 3-1 win over West Brom which sees them qualify for the playoffs in sixth spot

Derby defender Richard Keogh has suggested it's only natural that manager Frank Lampard will be linked with a return to Chelsea given the impact he's made in his first season in management.

Lampard's Derby side reached the Championship play-off final before eventually losing 2-1 to Aston Villa at Wembley.

The 40-year-old former Chelsea midfielder has been linked with a return to Stamford Bridge with current boss Maurizio Sarri's future at the club looking increasingly uncertain.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  of Leeds United of Derby County during the Sky Bet Championship Play-off Semi Final, second leg match between Leeds United and Derby County at Elland Road on May 15, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Image: Keogh and Lampard celebrate Derby's play-off semi-final win against Leeds

"I can't speak highly enough of the gaffer and working with him in his first season," said Keogh. "He's going to have a fantastic career as a manager for sure.

"I think naturally with the speculation that's going on regarding Sarri, the gaffer is going to get mentioned because of the legendary status he's got at that football club and obviously he's doing such a good job with us."

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Frank Lampard confirmed that he will discuss his future with Derby’s owner Mel Morris as the rumours intensify around him leaving for the Chelsea manager's position

Keogh made 57 appearances in all competitions for Derby in the 2018-19 season and captained the side after Curtis Davies suffered a season-ending injury in December.

The 32-year-old defender wants to continue thriving under Lampard's management.

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"As far as I know he's looking forward to next season as much as I am and it would be a shame to see him leave," he added.

"But in this industry, when you're doing a good job and you're Frank Lampard, then you're going to get linked with jobs. Hopefully he stays. I've really enjoyed working with him and he's really improved the football club and me as a player."

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Sky Sports News asked Derby owner Mel Morris whether it would be difficult to stand in Frank Lampard's way if Chelsea approached the current Rams boss

Derby have finished in the Championship top 10 in each of the past seven seasons and Keogh believes with Lampard in charge next year, they can challenge for promotion again.

"I think whenever you suffer a bit of heartbreak it does makes you more determined to achieve your goal the next season," he said.

"I think the group we created and what the manager was creating at Derby was something special so hopefully we can regroup, get some quality additions in and attack it because the last five or six years we've always been challenging near the top of the league.

"So we've just got to make sure we keep our standards high and give it another opportunity."

For now, Keogh's attentions turn to his national side, the Republic of Ireland. Two wins from two under returning boss Mick McCarthy saw them make the perfect start to their European Qualifiers campaign for Euro 2020.

Republic of Ireland players celebrate after Conor Hourihane scores the winner against Georgia
Image: Keogh celebrates with goalscorer Conor Hourihane in the Republic of Ireland's 1-0 win against Georgia in March

But on Friday, Keogh and his Republic of Ireland team-mates face a Denmark side who they've failed to beat in four attempts in the last two years.

"We know how tough the game is going to be for sure," Keogh said. "Obviously they're a great country but we've had two good results and I just think the guys are excited to be honest. I think the guys are looking forward to it.

"We want to qualify for a major championship so we're going to have to face these countries along the way.

"There's a real good energy about us now and I think there's a lot of buzz about Ireland at the moment so we've got to keep that momentum going. We're creating hopefully something special now."

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