Super Frank Lampard

By @marcdray & @Dazcfc1990

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Frank’s signing was met with mixed reviews back in 2001. Some said that we had paid over the odds for an average midfielder. £11m was a lot of money 12 years ago, and with Chelsea in such a poor financial state, it’s fair to say the purchase was a risk. Chelsea, however, could consider themselves lucky as Aston Villa had been highly interested in the player. West Ham even rejected a bid of £15m for Lamps and Kanoute from them.

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Lampard slotted straight into the starting XI in a midfield that, over the coming years, would look desolate without the name ‘Lampard’ in it. He started every Premier League game in his first season and racked up 7 goals overall, his first strike coming in a 3-0 win over Bulgarians, Levski Sofia in the UEFA Cup.

The nickname ‘Fat Frank’ had been earned after leaving West Ham, due to his larger physique and the hammer fans always feeling he wasn’t in their side on merit, but throughout the second season he was, again, a regular feature in ours and started every league game for the club. He also bettered his goal tally by one, notching a total of 8 goals over the 2002/03 campaign.

It hadn’t taken long for Frank to win the Chelsea fans over. He’d showed that his high price tag was worth paying and we had an ever present, ever reliable player who could also pop up with a goal here and there. However, after all his and the teams efforts in those two seasons, all we had to show for it was an FA Cup runners up medal and a place in the Champions League qualifying round, albeit without the inflated expectations of success we have today.

Lampard had shown potential, but he would really take off once Mr Abramovich turned up and pumped a few pennies into the clubs coffers.

After sealing qualification to the Champions League on a dramatic final day at home to Liverpool in 2003, the club’s future was in doubt due to a huge amount of debt, said to be in the region of £140m. It was suggested in later years that we were mere days from going out of business, which doesn’t even bear thinking about. Roman and his multi-billions came to our rescue by buying the club from Ken Bates and wiping out all the debts in the process. From the brink of extinction, we now had funds at our disposal that had never been seen in the football world. Over £100m worth of talent was brought into the club, with Frank amongst others concerned about how they would fit into this new revolution.

In Roman’s first season we came second to the ‘Invincible’ Arsenal side and were knocked out, poorly, of the Champions League by a Fernando Morientes inspired Monaco. On the positive side of things, Lampard had almost doubled his goal tally from the previous season to 15 and was, again, an ever present on the team sheet. This said a lot about the 24 year old. Chelsea had an unlimited budget and Ranieri had seen fit that Lampard was the best option available. In a team that now consisted of players such as Makelele, Crespo, Mutu, Veron, Duff and Joe Cole, Lampard stood head and shoulders above everyone else.

The end of Roman’s first season as owner of The Blues saw Ranieri ousted as manager. Although a popular figure in most Chelsea fans’ eyes, he was a ‘nearly’ man, not a winner. Jose Mourinho recognised this, and upon his arrival in 2004, he decided that, again, there would be no need to replace Lampard.

After a few games of the 2004/05 season, it was clear that Lampard was thriving in the attacking role of the midfield three. Makelele was holding in front of the back four, Tiago breaking up play and getting the ball forward, giving Lampard the freedom to play further up the field, in what sometimes looked like a second striker.

That campaign in general was something to remember for Chelsea fans all over the world. Mourinho had installed an incredible spirit into the squad, shown in the classic against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge and the battle at Blackburn in February. Say what you like about Russian oil money, but the determination and togetherness in this side was something to admire.

Frank was at the forefront of everything as we steamrolled the competition on the way to a League Cup win and our first league title in 50 years. He finished with 19 goals and was voted the Football Writers player of the year. Some of the goals were quite spectacular. None more so than the unbelievable Bayern Munich strike, where he turned on a sixpence to fire in with his left foot on the half volley after taking the ball on his chest.

Despite there being many to choose from, nothing would compare to the feeling of the two goals Frank scored at the Reebok. On the 30th April 2005, Chelsea headed to Bolton knowing that three more points would be enough to secure the title. We were well clear, everybody knew it was just a matter of time, but still had that nervous feeling looking on. It looked as if it had rubbed off on the players as they put in a pretty lacklustre display in the first half.

The second was a different story though. The team upped the ante and pushed on in search of that glorious moment. As he’d done all season, Lampard stepped up to provide it. Cutting inside from the left of the penalty area, he smashed a right foot shot low into the near post to send the Chelsea faithful into frenzy. “Chelsea are half an hour from the title” were the words bellowed in commentary. We were almost there.

Things were a bit nervy for the next 20 minutes or so, before Bolton whipped in a corner. The ball was cleared to Makelele, who looked up to see Carvalho and Lampard bursting past the half way line looking for a pass. Maka provided it, and it was Frank who raced clear towards the Bolton goal. There was never any doubt what was going to happen from there. Will he roll it to his right for Carvalho to tap in? Not a chance. He coolly rounded the keeper and slotted it in with his left foot. “He’s done it, give Chelsea the title.” What a feeling. Pretty much the entire squad mobbed him in front of the travelling fans, and after a few minutes that was it. Chelsea – Champions of England.

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Lampard had instantly turned himself into a legend. He’d been sensational all season. Only the great Ronaldinho stood in his way of picking up both European and World player of the year. Still, this was an achievement in itself. To elevate himself from being a risky buy to the second best player in the world in four years is not to be underestimated.

Whilst in his first spell at the club, Mourinho took it upon himself to build a squad around four players. Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. I have never seen a squad with a spine as strong as this. When all four were at the top of their game, we were unstoppable.

Jose also decided that second in the world was not good enough for Frank and pushed him to further himself as a player
“I have never had a manager who, while I’m standing in the shower cleaning my balls, tells me I’m the best player in the world. He did that. I’ll never forget it. So casual.

‘You’re the best player in the world, but you need to win titles.‘ From that moment the extra confidence was in me.“

Frank Lampard talking about then former manager Jose Mourinho.

With a winning manager, came trophies. And they came thick and fast. Two League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups and a Community Shield in three years meant Lampard and Chelsea were no longer ‘nearly men’ but winners. Lampard was fast becoming one of the greatest midfielders in Premier League history. 20 goals in 2005/06 and 21 in 2006/07 was a return that even some of the best strikers in the world would be happy with.

Mourinho departed shortly after the beginning of the 2007/08 season, much to the dismay of fans and players alike. His relationship with Abramovich had been strained past the point of no return. Avram Grant was installed for the remainder of the season as the players did their best to get on with the job at hand. Despite being close to Mourinho, Lampard’s form continued to flourish, and later on in the campaign, he showed a piece of courage that will never be forgotten.

If there was ever a moment to define Frank Lampard as a man, it came in a Champions League semi final against Liverpool back in 2008. Just a week prior to the game, Frank’s mother Pat had lost her battle with pneumonia and sadly passed away. There is no more difficult situation to deal with in life than the death of a loved one. Anyone who has experienced such a devastating feeling will agree. That is what made this show of character so remarkable.

He had missed the previous game against Manchester United, in which the rest of the players showed their respect to Frank and his family by holding up a shirt reading “R.I.P Pat Lampard” after a Michael Ballack goal. And manager Grant was intending to let him sit out of the Liverpool game as well. However, Frank begged to play. That in itself tells you all you need to know about him. A man willing to step up and play in a huge match despite going through such a tragic ordeal. Grant, perhaps reluctantly, agreed to start with him.

The match finished 1-1 as it had in the first leg, and the tie went to extra time. It wasn’t one of Frank’s finest performances, as you would expect, but what came next was quite staggering.

With both sides still locked at 2-2 on aggregate, Chelsea were awarded a penalty. Most men in Lampard’s situation would hand over the responsibility to a team mate. Michael Ballack had smashed in a winning penalty in the United game a few days before and would no doubt have stepped up again. Frank wasn’t having any of it though. He placed the ball on the spot, and slotted it into the bottom corner, sending Pepe Reina the wrong way. The goal prompted a hugely emotional celebration, dropping to his knees clutching on to the black armband he was wearing in honour of his mother.

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Chelsea went on to win 3-2 after extra time to book their place in the Champions League final for the first time. But the true story was Lampard’s unbelievable show of character. He was named UEFA Midfielder of the year for 2007/08.

That season ended with no trophies and the departure of Grant. Managers continued to fall in and out of the trap door over the next few years. Scolari, Hiddink, Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, Di Matteo and Benitez have all come and gone with mixed success. But Frank’s consistency, goal scoring and trophy count have continued to mount up right through to the present day. His consistency and goal scoring in particular have been nothing short of world class.

To be speaking about midfielders and goal records in the same sentence is quite unusual, but in the last few years, Frank has been edging closer and closer to becoming Chelsea’s all time record goal scorer. Some noticed before others that it was looking like a realistic target. Around five years ago, Marc’s old man (Steve) walked into a local betting shop and asked for a price on Frank to beat Bobby Tambling’s record of Chelsea goals.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they wouldn’t take the bet. Considering he was still best part of a hundred goals short of the record, it seemed odd that they wouldn’t even take a bet on it. They must have known what was going to happen. Anyway, Steve walked out and never really went in search of another bookmaker that would take the bet. You could say he’s regretting it a little bit now.

The king of midfield goal scoring continued to rack up 20+ goals a season despite passing the 30 mark. A run which lasted five years, only to be cut short by a long injury lay off in 2010/11. Even then, he still managed to score 13 in half a campaign. The man was and still is a machine. Despite AVB’s best efforts to freeze him out, Lampard still carried on banging them in during 2011/12. And a strong end to the season under Di Matteo left him on 186 goals for the club, just 16 short of the 202 goal record as he entered the final year of his contract.
Chelsea started the 2012/13 campaign very strongly, as did Frank. He managed to score in the opening two games from the penalty spot, as well as another from open play at home to Norwich. Shortly after though, he was regularly sitting amongst the substitutes before picking up an injury that would rule him out for nearly three months. The period that he missed was rather chaotic. Results declined and another manager was sacked. Di Matteo went and Benitez of all people came in.

All was not well at the club. Talk started spreading all over the newspapers that this was to be Frank’s last year at Chelsea. Recovering from injury, added to the mounting speculation about his future and another new manager to impress at the age of 34, the 13 goals he needed to equal Tambling were looking further and further away.

He came back from injury in early December and immediately became a regular in the team again, scoring at a frequent rate right the way through to the middle of February. During which time he equalled, then surpassed Kerry Dixon (193) in second place of the all time scoring charts by netting penalties at Southampton and Stoke respectively. By the time he’d volleyed in his 199th for the club at home to Brentford in the FA Cup, there were still three months left of the season and a huge fixture list to get through. Surely he was going to do it now. Yet still, there was no sign of a new contract coming his way.

His goal splurge slowed down a bit in the final months of the season, although he couldn’t have written the script much better for goal number 200. He’d recently missed a chance to get it when he had a penalty saved at Manchester City a few weeks before, but it turned out to be for the greater good. At home to West Ham of all teams, in front of their travelling fans, who had treated him appallingly during and after his time at their club, Lampard headed an Eden Hazard cross into the top corner. The bridge erupted. A fantastic moment for player and fans alike. It didn’t get much more satisfying than that.

Going into April, he was still on 200, two goals short of equalling the record and three short of breaking it. There was still no new contract on the table. Time was running out. On my way to the Swansea home game, I saw that he was named amongst the substitutes. Straight away I thought to myself that he was going to come up short and leave the club without that crowning achievement. After an injury to Ramires, Lampard came on and made the difference by driving us forward. He was rewarded with an opportunity from the spot on the stroke of half time and duly obliged. He now sat on 201, just one short of Tambling.
April passed as we entered the final few weeks of the season. Three games remained, the first being a trip to Aston Villa on a Saturday lunch time. I’d bought tickets a few weeks before. Myself and my mate Chris set off on the drive to Birmingham discussing Lampard’s chances of reaching the landmark. We both agreed that he wasn’t going to do it and it would leave a real bitter taste if that came to pass. Frank started, and at the time I thought this may be the last start of his Chelsea career.

The first half was miserable. 1-0 down and a man sent off. The prospect of going into our last game needing to win to get in next season’s Champions League was looking very likely. Early in the second half though, Villa were also reduced to ten men and the chance of a comeback grew. Mere minutes later, Super Frank crashed in a left footed shot to equal the record. We were going mad in the away end but the most important thing at that stage was to win the game.
Drawing towards injury time, it happened. Hazard played a one-two with Cole, before laying the ball across the six yard box. Initially I didn’t see who was going to get their foot to the ball first, but I was just praying it was a Chelsea player. With impeccable timing as ever, Frank got on the end of it and slid the ball into the empty net. I’ve never seen an end erupt so much in my entire life. It was pandemonium. A load of fans jumped over the advertising boards to celebrate with him on the pitch. Even one bloke with a metal leg was in the mix with his walking stick. Crazy. He’d done it. 203 goals. A record breaker. And not only that, we’d gone and nicked a massive result to secure Champions League football for 2013/14. What a brilliant day it was, and I’m so proud to say that I was there.

From those 203 strikes, we’ve had a go at picking out the best three. Now, picking a top three from all of Lampard’s goals is a rather difficult task, but we’ve had a go and come up with these ones below. Of course it’s a matter of opinion so not everyone will agree, but here they are.

3) Spurs – FA Cup Semi Final 2012

This one may have snuck into the top three purely because of the opponent and occasion. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad strike was it? A good 35 yards from goal, Frank lines up a free kick. We’re 3-1 up at the time and he’s probably thinking “f*ck it, I’ll have a go.” Now I’m not the biggest lover of Lampard free kicks at the best of times. A lot of them have had me ducking under my seat in the Shed Upper to avoid the flying ball. This one flew as well, straight into Carlo Cudicini’s top right hand corner. Carnage breaks out in the Chelsea end as we’ve rubbed more salt into the Tottenham wound. It was a pretty ridiculous strike, fitting of a man known for long range wonder goals. You won’t find many better struck dead balls than this one.

2) Barcelona – Champions League group stage 2006/07

Did he mean it? He says he did and that’s good enough for me. The fact that he’s even attempted this is outrageous, let alone actually score from it. A bit of miss-control took him wide of Victor Valdes’ goal, and he’s pretty much on the by line with his back to goal. One spin and right footed chip later, it’s over the keeper and nestling in the far post. I’ve never seen a goal quite like it. It was a big one as well, levelling us up at 1-1 after spending the majority of the match behind. I can’t really see a goal like this ever being scored again. Even the great Gianfranco Zola has recently tried an attempt at rein acting it, but to no avail. “If I tried it another hundred times it probably wouldn’t go in” he said in a recent interview. I have to agree.

1) Bayern Munich – Champions League Quarter Final 2005

How do you top a spinning chip from the by line you say? What about a spinning half volley on the turn with your wrong foot? This has to be Lampard’s greatest ever goal. It was instinctive, majestic, sensational. He’d already scored a pretty decent goal in this match to put us 2-1 up, but this was on another level. A Makelele chip to the far post was a bit over hit and Frank improvised by taking it on the chest, back to goal and somehow spun 180 degrees to fire a left foot shot into the far corner. “Absolutely superb” as Martin Tyler said in commentary.

Special mentions:
The left footed chip at Hull and the long range efforts against Crystal Palace, Norwich and Ipswich. For sentimental reasons, the penalty against Liverpool in the 2008 Champions League semi final and the record breaking winner at Aston Villa. There’s plenty more than that as well, but we could go on all day. A scorer of great goals and a great goal scorer. Have we mentioned he’s a midfielder?

To do what he has done in the last 12 years is fantastic. Has there ever been a more reliable, consistent player to pull on the blue shirt than Frank Lampard? Certainly not in my lifetime and I would argue with people until they were bored if they tried challenging that. In my opinion, he is our greatest ever player. Week in, week out, Frank has consistently put in world class performances. I could probably count on one hand the amount of ‘bad’ games he’s had in his Chelsea career.

From the moment he joined, he cemented his place in the midfield and not a single player has been able to dislodge him. When you think of the midfielders we’ve had throughout the years (Makelele, Ballack, Essien) it’s no mean feat. Since Lampard’s arrival, every Chelsea manager (with the exception of AVB & FSW) has seen Lampard as the stalwart of the side and their faith has been rewarded by Frank, year on year.
Even FSW realised that if you play Lampard, you get goals.

Frank’s ratio is a little under one goal every three games. A lot of strikers finish with figures like these and consider themselves to have had a successful career. For a midfielder to be keeping that ratio up at 34 is beyond belief.

Season Appearances Goals Ratio
2001/02 53 7 7.57
2002/03 48 8 6.00
2003/04 58 15 3.87
2004/05 58 19 3.05
2005/06 50 20 2.50
2006/07 62 21 2.95
2007/08 40 20 2.00
2008/09 57 20 2.85
2009/10 51 27 1.89
2010/11 32 13 2.46
2011/12 49 16 3.06
2012/13 50 17 2.94
Total 608 203 2.99

Considering the nicknames that some fans have bestowed upon Lampard, it’s quite ironic that he broke the record for starting every single Premier League game between August 2001 and December 2005. That’s 164 Premier League starts in a row. For an outfield, high work rate midfielder to break that record is nothing short of astonishing.

I remember where I was when the record ended as well. Down the local, watching the dodgy foreign channel and the line ups came on the screen. When there was no Lampard starting and no Lampard on the bench, I nearly had a panic attack.

The fitness levels you need to play that amount of games without a rest, whilst continuously performing at the level he has doesn’t ever bear thinking about. I don’t think we’ll see an outfield player break that record for some time.

Frank’s crowning achievement at the club came at the end of 2011/12. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a man more deserving of a Champions League winners medal. The perfect role model on and off the pitch, Lampard’s medal collection was still incomplete. The runners up one he had received in Moscow was not enough for a man of his calibre. (I mean, Djimi Traore’s got one!)

The pinnacle of any professional footballer playing in Europe is to win the Champions League and it was no different for Lamps. Over the years there had been a lot of heartache suffered in this competition. Goals that didn’t go in, abject performances and the most shocking refereeing performance you will ever see in your life. We all know how it feels to be stitched up in this competition year after year, but it must be ten times worse when you are on that pitch.

When Lamps joined back in 2001, I’m not sure if winning the Champions League with Chelsea would have really been on the agenda. I mean, every player aspires to this but did he, or anyone for that matter, really think that one day we could win the thing? No one would blame him for seeing Chelsea as a stepping stone when he originally joined.

Lampard has been the focal point for the majority of Chelsea’s successes in the Champions League over the last ten years. Equally, he has felt the hurt as much as any of us in our failures in that period as well. There have been some vitally important performances and there have been goals that will be remembered for years and years to come.

I think the game that epitomises Lampard’s contribution to Chelsea in the Champions League, is the second leg against Napoli in 2012. 3-1 down from the first leg in Naples, in which AVB had decided it was a good idea to drop the likes of Lampard and Cole, Di Matteo saw fit to recall the ‘old guard’ and we had that all important spine back in the team. At the end of 90 minutes, it was 3-1 to Chelsea with the goals coming from Drogba, Terry and Lampard. Three players that the previous genius of a manager had deemed surplus to requirements.
They ran the show that evening. The leadership of those three brought the whole team together. I think, deep down, that Frank and the others thought this could be their last chance of winning the trophy, and from there we kicked on.
Again, Frank was at the fore in our ties against Barcelona. An interception from Messi led to a ball being played into Ramires, who squared across goal to Drogba to give us the 1-0 win in the first leg. In the Nou Camp, again, Lampard played an exquisite ball through the Barca defence for Ramires to dink over Valdes and send us on our way to Munich.

We all know what happened in the final, so I don’t want to go over it in detail, but Lampard and co played like absolute heroes for 120 minutes. We stuck to the game plan and ended up victorious. Many years of hurt were wiped out in a single moment and Frank finally had that Champions League winners medal he so rightly deserved.

He completed the trophy collection in May 2013 by captaining the team to a Europa League win in Amsterdam. Shortly after that triumph, it was announced that Frank would be staying. For months it looked like this would be his last season with us, but thankfully the club saw sense and offered him a one year extension to his contract. I’ve seen many different opinions on the matter, some of which I find quite disturbing. The fact that a fair group of fans would gladly see him walk out the door just because we’d save a few quid in financial fair play terms is the ultimate insult to a legend.

Not only is he still performing at a good level and scoring at a rate as high as ever, he is the ultimate professional and role model for the young players to look up to. These guys are only going to learn good things from Lampard. Keeping him around is a complete no brainer.

In the coming year(s), I see him very much as a squad player that can contribute where needed and continue to be a strong voice in the dressing room. He knows the score. Age doesn’t slow down for anyone and you’ve got to move with the times. But for me, it’s only right that he continues at Chelsea for the rest of his career, much like what Giggs and Scholes have done at Manchester United.

With the return of a certain ‘Special One’ confirmed, you can bet your mortgage that he won’t be looking to offload Lamps any time soon. The bond they struck up in his first tenure at Chelsea was quite something and it will be exciting to see it again, although it will be a very different situation this time round. Frank has been there and done it now. There is no question he owes a lot of his personal success to the words and motivation of Mourinho. It will be a pleasure to see them back together.

Frank has also spoken about getting his coaching badges over the next few years, so perhaps he could take up some sort of role at the club when he eventually does decide to call it a day. One thing is for sure though, that day isn’t coming anytime soon. When you’re scoring 17 goals from a deeper midfield position at the age of 34, you’re quite a valuable asset to say the least.

In some ways, the word legend doesn’t do the man enough justice. An icon is what he is. We can only hope that the work rate, professionalism and success that he’s provided us with will be handed down to the next generation.
So there we have it. Frank Lampard is our record goal scorer. After 12 years, 203 goals and every major trophy in his collection, I think he was worth the £11m you know.

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