Tuesday 26 September 2017

Chelsea great Frank Lampard picks the perfect moment again

Frank Lampard enjoyed huge success with Chelsea
Frank Lampard enjoyed huge success with Chelsea

Good timing, Frank.

It was always one of his strong suits as a player, and in retiring now the 38-year-old former England midfielder has got his timing spot on once again.

Many of his club-record 211 goals for Chelsea were made possible due to his reading of the game and anticipation; so too was his goal against Chelsea while on a short-term deal at Manchester City, where he showed his longevity and pedigree.

Two goals against Bolton in 2005 earned Chelsea a first championship in 50 years and, in the eyes of Blues supporters, thrust Lampard into sporting immortality.

He won every major club honour in 13 years at Stamford Bridge, following his £11million move from West Ham in 2001.

Yet he remained under-appreciated more widely, even with England, despite earning 106 caps and scoring 29 goals.

Maybe that was part of a wider dislike of Chelsea, the nouveau riche upsetting the established order.

Manchester City supporters' affection for Lampard grew in his short spell there, made possible after Chelsea allowed him to depart and ahead of his move to New York City FC.

So happy with him on the field were City that he stayed on, angering some in the Big Apple.

Lampard had immense stamina. He made a staggering 164 consecutive Premier League appearances for Chelsea - a record for an outfield player - in more than four years.

He was a consummate professional. He scored an extra-time penalty to guide Chelsea to the Champions League final at Liverpool's expense in 2008, six days after the death of his mother.

He was an England international for almost 15 years, part of the golden generation which fell so short of expectations.

His midfield partnership with Steven Gerrard was meant to be the engine room of a team which included David Beckham, Michael Owen, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and others.

But the pair failed to flourish time and again. The individual pieces did not even add up to the sum of their parts, let alone exceed them.

Lampard began his career at West Ham, where his father, also Frank, played.

He is the nephew of Harry Redknapp, who was Hammers boss when he made his first-team debut.

But Redknapp railed against claims of nepotism, predicting big things of the midfielder with floppy hair and a centre parting.

Redknapp and Frank Lampard Snr left West Ham in May 2001 and Lampard left a month later, swapping east London for west with Chelsea.

He was fined in the first months of his Chelsea career after being caught up in an unsavoury encounter at Heathrow Airport in the hours after the September 11 atrocities in the United States, but after that initial reprimand his career at Stamford Bridge went from strength to strength.

Naturally he was jeered when he played against the Hammers, but had a habit of answering by scoring against his former club. And his 200th Chelsea goal came against West Ham in March 2013.

Having been so fundamental to Jose Mourinho's first title-winning teams at Chelsea, Lampard found himself more and more on the periphery in the Portuguese's second spell.

And he left after just one season of Mourinho's return, saying goodbye at relegated Cardiff.

Lampard showed that decision was a touch premature by thriving with Manchester City, including scoring in his first match in opposition to Chelsea.

His move to Manchester delayed his switch to New York City FC, angering fans of the new franchise. He had signed a two-year deal in July 2014, but made his debut more than a year later.

But he softened their dissatisfaction and earned their affection in scoring 15 times in 31 appearances, including the club's first hat-trick.

Although he played in three World Cups, his best performances for England came at Euro 2004 - also the scene of Wayne Rooney's best displays - in Portugal.

Lampard scored three goals on England's run to the quarter-finals and was named in the team of the tournament.

He was England's player of the year in 2004 and 2005, but was subject of some booing soon afterwards.

He continued playing for England, a team which continued to perform beneath expectations.

His lasting legacy on international football came in the 2010 World Cup, when England crashed out to Germany and Lampard scored a 'goal' which was not given.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter recognised the officials' clear mistake, and it was the catalyst for the introduction of goal-line technology.

It means Lampard's legacy is there for all to see. But his ability and achievements, especially at club level, should not and will not be forgotten, either.

Press Association

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