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Frank Lampard turned himself into the ultimate midfield machine
Last Updated: 22/05/15 8:59am
Better than Steven Gerrard? How Frank Lampard turned himself into the ultimate midfielder...
"I remember playing against him while he was at West Ham. I never thought he was going to be the player he became.You could see he’d have a career, but the career he had is all down to work." - Thierry Henry
Right from the start, Frank Lampard was underestimated. There were even questions of nepotism when his uncle, Harry Redknapp, selected him for West Ham ahead of fellow youth-team prospect Scott Canham. Redknapp was adamant that his belief in the teenage Lampard was total.
“He’s got everything that is needed to be a top midfield player,” the then West Ham manager told his inquisitor at a feisty fan forum in 1996. “His attitude is first-class. He’s got strength, he can play, he can pass and he can score goals. I couldn’t be more strong in how I feel about him.”
Redknapp, of course, was proven emphatically right on all counts. But the characteristics he listed can be divided into causes and symptoms. The real clue to the reason for his success was in the first quality that the Hammers boss listed. The same quality identified by Henry. Lampard’s work ethic was extraordinary.
His attitude is first-class. He’s got strength, he can play, he can pass and he can score goals.
Harry Redknapp on Frank Lampard
Mental strength is not the sort of thing that leaves a youth scout breathless on a cold Saturday morning. Nor is it likely to drive the hits on YouTube as the next teen sensation goes viral. The hushed talk at the Boleyn Ground was reserved for Lampard’s skilful team-mate Joe Cole.
Move to Chelsea
Nevertheless, it was enough to earn Lampard a move to Chelsea in 2001 and the manager who took him to Stamford Bridge regards it as one of his finest decisions. Speaking to Claudio Ranieri, it’s that attitude that clearly left the strongest impression on him.
“Frank was my first signing at Chelsea and he was fantastic,” Ranieri told Sky Sports. “He came to my house and I explained what I wanted to do with him. I said, ‘Look Frank, I love how you attack but I want to improve how you defend because I am Italian and I like to defend as well as attack’.
“It was fantastic because when you say something to Frank, he will remember. The manager speaks with everybody but only the champion remembers in that moment what the coach said. It was easy to work with him. Too easy. I rank him as No 1 of all the players I have worked with.”
The manager speaks with everybody but only the champion remembers in that moment what the coach said. It was easy to work with him. Too easy. I rank him as No.1 of all the players I have worked with.
Claudio Ranieri on Frank Lampard
Despite this, as Lampard prepares to walk away from the Premier League this weekend, it seems any fanfare will pale in comparison to the outpouring of emotion that’s greeted Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool exit. Lampard has often lost the battle for attention, while winning the trophy war.
Gerrard is the hero who wins games on his own. And yet, Lampard has scored more goals at club and international level. Paul Scholes, meanwhile, is regarded as the pass master. But look at their assist tallies and Lampard’s is more than double that of the archetypal midfield architect.
The disparity is understandable given that Lampard has had to play catch-up. He was only a month shy of 26 when a brace against Southampton took him into double figures in a Premier League season for the first time. It proved to be the first of 10 seasons in a row in which he’d hit the tally.
While Gerrard went to Euro 2000 when barely 20, Lampard turned 26 during his first major championships with England – scoring three goals in four games at Euro 2004. Even Owen Hargreaves was much younger than Lampard when picked for the 2002 World Cup ahead of him.
Weight of numbers
Essentially, It took time for his remarkable ability to become abundantly clear and even then it was through sheer weight of numbers as much as anything else. Goals and trophies rather than passes and plaudits have been Lampard’s currency.
Even in his final Premier League season in which he has been a bit-part player at Manchester City, his goalscoring ability has been evident. In fact, Lampard boasts the best minutes-per-goal record of any Premier League midfielder to score five or more this season.
He now departs for New York City and what some will regard as semi-retirement. But this is the player that never stops in the city that never sleeps - his professionalism is certain to be a feature of his time there. From West Ham to Man City, Frank Lampard simply doesn’t know any other way.