Legends of Club Football: Frank Lampard
The second rank is a cruel one, almost as cruel as the era we live in. While the second rank signifies that you are a loser, the best loser, but a loser nevertheless, the era makes sure there is someone in some corner of the world who is better than you.
History has been graced many times over by players who seem effortless in their movement, in their passes, their attempts on target. Each action they make, they seem at ease, as if they were born to do this. If you look at Frank Lampard and say the same thing, I’ll give you the address to a nice and cosy psychiatric ward. In an era of pure geniuses, Frank Lampard had carved a niche for himself, making up for his lack of natural talent with an immense work rate. One would look at Frank playing a match and wonder if he was born with four lungs, running into to his own box to win balls, darting past, lobbing through beautiful through balls, and going for those famous shots that would shred the net apart, literally!
Chelsea FC’s old guard have a thing with controversies, they are always in them. John Terry, despite being 10 times the defender any team can throw on is allegedly a racist and an infidel, the latter also having been used to describe another Chelsea stalwart Ashley Cole, who has had his own share of controversies thanks to Twitter.
Not Lampard, though.
Nothing could throw this man off his stride, no amount of allegations or sex tapes could reduce anyone’s respect for one of Chelsea’s greatest sons. A fair player who has very rarely been sent off in his illustrious career, Frank has been Chelsea’s all-weather man. If you are losing, trust Frank to fire in a rocket. If you are winning, you know Frankie can extend it with a stunning free kick. And if there is a penalty to be taken, no one would bat an eyelid, Frank Lampard will net it, just like he has an astounding 49 times in his career.
Lampard was the youth product of Chelsea’s London rivals West Ham, where his father Frank Sr. and uncle, ‘arry Redknapp were the assistant manager and manager respectively. Following their sacking, Lampard was shipped out to Chelsea, the season after he had fired West Ham to their highest ever 5th place finish. Lampard earned a place a in the side’s best XI thanks to a dogged performance in each game. There was something in him, an animal instinct, a certain level of awareness, a sixth sense that allowed him to play far beyond what his average speed and dribbling skills would permit, absolute essentials in a box-to-box midfielder. The term ‘box-to-box’ is a dying one now, and Frank was perhaps the last great to step into the heavily demanding boots of this role.
Frank had been crowned the Premier League footballer of the year twice, but never could he lay his hands on the extremely coveted Ballon D’Or or the FIFA World Player of the year award, falling just one rank short on both occasions. But nothing could deter this man, award or no award, recognition or no recognition, one just couldn’t beat the Chelsea out of him. He would just go on playing, and hoping that his club would win.
Cut him and he would bleed blue.
Frank came close to achieving European success when they were unfairly knocked out by Barcelona, in a match where Chelsea were reportedly denied six penalties. Tempers naturally ran high, and Drogba lambasted all of Barcelona and the referees straight into the camera, while Frank remained subdued, knowing his duty as a vice captain, he remained silent, went on to congratulate Andres Iniesta for scoring the equalizing goal, and exchanged his shirt with him, an action that had been noted and praised by Sir Alex Ferguson, who was quoted saying:
“Frank Lampard is an exceptional player – a huge asset to Chelsea, You pay attention to players who can get goals from midfield and he’s been averaging 20 a season.You don’t see him getting into stupid tackles or making a habit of becoming involved in silly rows. He remained restrained after Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona and even made a point of swapping shirts with Andrés Iniesta.”
Lampard was a major part of Chelsea’s best team ever, the one which contested in two Champions league finals, and ended up on the winning side once. After Cristiano Ronaldo‘s stunning opener in the first edition, he stepped up to the game and equalized in an absolutely pouring Moscow. He converted the spot kick when his turn came, giving the lead to Chelsea, but after John Terry and Nicholas Anelka failed to score, the trophy went to Manchester. As the entire team broke down, Lampard remained stoic, he knew their time would come, they would be the ones tossing that trophy straight into the air in due time. And four years later, he contested the finals again, this time as captain, and performed his best and was rewarded appropriately, he however, refused to lift the trophy as captain and abdicated that honour in favour of John Terry.
Always a very humble guy, Frank Lampard.
As age started taking its toll on Frank, so did numerous injuries, but cunning old Frank was too clever (way too clever. After all, his IQ tests in schools had been off the charts) for these to be deterrents. There was a constant evolution in his playing style, he went from scoring goals, to scoring goals one way or the other. After all, when a 34-year-old midfielder is the top scorer of the year from the club which has been crowned the European Champions that season, you just know there is something special in him.
Lampard had always been among brilliant contemporaries, and always remained second in comparisons, being the runner up to the Ballon D’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year, but never on the score sheet. After all, he is the Premier League’s highest scoring midfielder of all time, and has been the assists leader of the season twice. In a comparison between the top four players wearing the #8 jersey (Lampard, Gerrard, Xavi, and Iniesta), Frank was head, shoulders and halfway up his leg above his contemporaries in terms of matches played, goals scored and assists recorded.
One might hail the new and upcoming MAZACAR trio to be Chelsea’s holy trinity, but the experience, unselfishness and organizational skills are missing. One look at them and their link up with Torres and you know something is wrong in their distribution. Frank never tried to prove himself, he was perfectly fine with settling for setting up a goal, or distributing a wonderful pass, but he never shied away from scoring a bullet of a goal either, firing in from just outside the penalty box. He could captain the team in John Terry’s absence, he could throw his weight around as the vice captain and squash out any problems. He always a very hands on and involved player.
Lampard will always have a special place in the hearts of the Chelsea faithful, even if he were to leave after nearly 12 years of dedicated service and excellence. Lampard was quoted saying his now deceased mother had told him never to leave Chelsea, the club that had given him so much and he had given them just as much in return. Although there have been numerous link ups lately, ranging from Los Angeles Galaxy to a certain club in Australia, there is no doubt about it, Frank Lampard was, is and will remain Mr. Chelsea.
A true legend at the Bridge.
Here are some of Lampard’s high moments in his long Chelsea career:-
Read more about such club legends here