When you just know ‘it had to be Lampard’

2014-09-27 00:00

IF there were an award for “best club footballer” in the history of the Premier League, the nominees would surely be Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Such an award would not only recognise individual brilliance — there are a host of other players who would have little trouble being named alongside the three I have just mentioned — but it combines ability with attitude, professionalism, loyalty and bringing success to the club.

All three have been instrumental to the varying amounts of success their clubs have enjoyed in recent times. For Giggs and Lampard, the success directly reflects their contributions. Both have won every major title available to them in English (and European) football. Gerrard has been less fortunate. Still decorated with winner’s medals from the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup, it is the Premier League title that has always eluded him. At 34 and with Liverpool seemingly a move behind City and Chelsea, that is unlikely to change.

Gerrard, like Giggs at United, has spent his entire senior career at Liverpool. The careers of both of those men will forever be etched into the hearts of the respective supporters at Anfield and Old Trafford.

Lampard’s case is a little more curious.

While his legendary status at Chelsea will never be questioned, his career began outside of the walls of Stamford Bridge and that is how it will end.

This is through no will of his own. Lampard’s desire to sign a one-year extension at Chelsea this season was well documented — why would you want to leave a club where you are adored and you are re-writing the history books (Lampard is Chelsea’s all time leading goal scorer) with every goal?

But he was deemed surplus to requirements, thanked for his contribution over the years and then sent on his merry way.

Lampard was America-bound, where bright lights and crazed fans waited, but not before City jumped on board to have their small taste of Frank.

What happened last weekend was nothing short of epic.

I found myself wedged in between a Chelsea fan and a City fan for the match, which was rare on its own because up until a season or two ago, the Citizens didn’t have much pull with the South African football public.

A couple of trophies seem to have changed that.

When Lampard was introduced with City down a man and a goal, you just had a sense that the script had already been written. The stage was set, and like he has done so many times over the years, Lampard obliged.

“It had to be Lampard. It couldn’t be anyone else,” the dumbstruck Chelsea supporter to my left mustered. But the look on his face and the tone of his voice immediately told me that he wasn’t shocked. He had seen enough of Lampard over the years to know what he was all about. “It had to be Lampard,” he said over and over until it became nothing more than a mumble as the final whistle blew.

Lampard’s decision not to celebrate, or even smile, after his goal was admirable even if it was expected. And the honesty with which he approached his post-match presser was top class.

Comparisons between Lampard and Gerrard have been going on for well over a decade now. I always used to be on the Blue side of that debate.

But as I got older and Gerrard’s influence got stronger (I also convinced myself that half of Lampard’s goals were penalties) I became more undecided.

But a costly slip, a failed World Cup and a simply stunning Chelsea career later, I think it’s safe to say that — 13 years on — Super Frank has won the war.

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