John Terry has thrown his not inconsiderable weight behind the campaign to retain Frank Lampard and, for once, it’s hard not to want to line up alongside him, nod your head, pat him on the back and shout, “What he said!”
If Manchester United can canter to the title with 39-year old Ryan Giggs and 38 year old Paul Scholes, it’s hard to fathom why Chelsea’s hierarchy are so convinced that 34-year old Frank Lampard is ready to be broken up for intimately waxed parts.
Whether Terry’s surge of support is successful or not, it’s nice that Lampard is finally getting some love. It’s strange, but there’s always been something about the self-satisfied, privately educated Essex boy that sat ill with the British public.
The fact that he lent his support to Conservative party leader David Cameron in 2007 didn’t help his cause, but then again, imagine how much abuse he’d receive if he attempted to paint himself as a socialist. As a professional footballer, which I suppose is how we should really assess him, he has set an admirable example.
After a slow start at Stamford Bridge, with just a handful of goals in each of his first two seasons, his performances in 2003 improved as dramatically as the club’s bank balance.
A competent if rather underwhelming performer, it was suggested that Roman Abramovich’s resources would see him replaced by someone far more glamorous.
Spurred into action, Lampard redoubled his efforts. Fifteen goals came that season, then 19, 20,21,20,20 and a whopping 29 in the double-winning 2009/10 campaign. Lampard wasn’t just an excellent attacking midfielder, he was scoring at the rate of a superb centre-forward.
His low standing with rival fans wasn’t helped by a number of less-than-impressive performances in an England shirt, but he was hardly aided by the insanity of being repeatedly paired with Steven Gerrard, or on one memorable night, being stuck out the left against Spain.
Both Lampard and Gerrard excelled when they broke from the middle and supported the attack, it just might have been nice had they done it one at a time. Lampard’s popularity plunged to the extent that he was once booed at Wembley simply for coming off the bench. In the meantime, Terry was almost universally admired for his no-nonsense defending. How times change.
Lampard has also borne the brunt of the Chelsea connection. Since the arrival of Abramovich, the Blues have clattered through the Premier League like a British stag party in a quiet European town; spending a small fortune and initially enjoying themselves before the sketchy itinerary for success and glory was superseded by internal divisions, squabbles and ill-advised sexual encounters.
Abramovich paid for the flights and he still holds all the doorcards to the hotel, but a number of the guests are growing frustrated by his refusal to just pick a bar to drink in. None of which is Lampard’s fault.
Downgraded to a squad player by Andre Villas-Boas and told that his days were numbered by the owner’s minions, Lampard has simply continued to do what he has done for 10 years. Pass the ball, scuttle forward, drift into the position of maximum opportunity and then drive the ball home, preferably off the calf of an innocent bystander.
Until such time that he is no longer fit for purpose, it beggars belief that Chelsea would ruffle his hair, pass him a cheap gold watch and pack him on a flight for the MLS.
I won’t lie to you, I don’t feel comfortable agreeing with Terry about anything, but in this instance, he’s absolutely right. Lampard must stay.
Bet on Chelsea to finish in the top four
Read more from the marvellous Iain Macintosh