Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

 

Frank Lampard

Super Frank Lampard

The front cover of the Frank Lampard Biography


 

He is one of the best football players in Britain , if not the world, today. His dedication, skill and staggering fitness have lead to him being lauded by fans, managers and fellow players alike. A vital part of the midfield engine for Chelsea and England , frank Lampard is poised to become one of the beautiful game's true legends.

The young lad from Romford was born into the football family. His father, a former west ham star, was the raw talent in his boy and was unstinting in his determination for him to succeed. The hard work paid off and Frank Jr kept it in the family by signing to Westham in 1995.

Since transferring to Chelsea in a blaze of controversy, ‘lamps' has silenced any critics and had proved himself indispensable to his club. No-one his age has played more premiership football than Lampard, and no one played more at Chelsea – in fact, he has broken the record number of consecutive appearances for his club. Now set to become a force to be reckoned with in Europe , the future looks bright for Frank.

This affectionate and revealing portrait of the young star offers a glimpse inside raw talent. It uncovers the truth about Franks early years, how he dealt with the fame and fortune that has come his way since becoming a prolific member of the national side and the truth behind the wild nights out with his Chelsea team mates.  

 

EXTRACT FRANK LAMPARD
PREFACE
DEJA VU

'Lampard, Lampard, Lampard!!! Super Frankie Lampard!!!!'
The Chelsea crowd chanting choruses before the kick-off at Stamford Bridge, 26 December 2004

It seems only a moment ago that the fashionable fragment of the football world, the chic and the cheeky side that made mischief personally and professionally, which sought and got most attention, flaunted itself and swaggered along the King's Road.

Then, for a time, it became more of a stagger on that singular London thoroughfare. It was suddenly smarter to be far more pragmatic about the advertising budget; there was not much to show off.
Now, some long years on, there's that satisfying bounce of self-confidence, of propriety and dignity both in and about the vicinity. The billboards are back to shout the 21st century attitude. Chelsea Football Club are once again charismatic champions in the game and the Blues are where fashion and football connect; it might not be as painfully trendy as the sixties, but once again on a sunny Saturday afternoon it can appear, through the Persol sunglasses, more St Tropez than the west side of London.

It's a place where David Beckham would be comfortable with the lads from Real Madrid. Certainly, Chelsea's image-conscious imported players are. Ken Bates never tired of pointing out that by the Louis Vuitton route, by taxi, it's only ten minutes from Stamford Bridge to Harrods where you can buy just about anything.

Yet, for two decades the bearded, ebullient, but financially coy, Bates was where the buck stopped at the Bridge. And, of course, Roman Abramovich, who took over from him in 2003 as the club's ultimate boss, is where the bucks started.

The enigmatic Abramovich changed the rules on retail therapy for football clubs around the world. He warmed up the finances of football by spending more than £100 million in exchange for eleven players in half a dozen weeks.

By the beginning of 2005 that spending spree had grown, in those neat, round numbers we all like, to more than £250 million.

With all that simmering, oil-soaked currency, dollars, euros, sterling, it was a convining thought that world football would be better equipped with chancellors than with coaches. It seemed that the Bank of England might have to change interest rates if Chelsea fancied a new goalkeeper and a couple of strikers in the same weekend. It still does.

Amid all that frenzy and speculation where did the Chelsea football team stand in that summer and autumn of 2003? Initially, they were as perplexed and puzzled as weekend whist players caught up in the World Poker Championships.

How big's the pot? The odds? What's the betting? Who plays? Who goes? Who stays? And, of course, who is in charge?

The genial Claudio Ranieri, who took Chelsea to second in the Premiership and the semi-final of the Champions League before succumbing a few months later to the biggest peril in football - events - got extra time.

He believes that was by happenstance, which, of course, is just events in disguise: 'When the new owner arrived, I thought he'd change everything, the manager first. But Sven-Goran Eriksson was not available, so Roman gave me the opportunity to drive the new car. But I knew Roman didn't want me to drive the car, he wanted Schumacher...'

Uncertain times. Just what could the Russian oil billionaire's financial power do? And, more importantly, for young Frank Lampard, who would it buy? Or sell? What had the lad from the East End with West End ambitions landed in?

It wasn't Abramovich's millions which bought him on 14 June 2001, for £11 million from West Ham and took him up west. Then, he still had demons to exorcise, mental and physical strengths to improve, disciplines to learn.

Two summers later what he required more than anything was 100 percent self-belief. It was difficult. And without it, the cheque-book football going on around him made him frightened for his future with Chelsea. He thought he would be on the bench as glamour names were bought in from around the globe. He firmly believed he would be squeezed out of the team.

Incredible as it seems, with hindsight, Frank Lampard thought he had a no-hope future at Chelsea. And, if so, what of his England dreams? He'd been an England Under-21 captain and for years they'd been telling him that one day he would lead his national squad to grown-up glory.

'The worst feeling was seeing the extent of the speculation. You'd be reading about five defenders, five midfielders, five attackers, all being linked with Chelsea every day. I think you're entitled to feel unsettled when all that's raging around you. It would be unnatural not to. You've got to be allowed to think: "Blimey, is somebody going to come in and take my position away?'

His instincts and training kicked in: he confronted the challenge. It wasn't in his brave and bold nature not to. Frank took up the gauntlet: 'I wanted to have a big season. I wanted to have the best season I'd ever had. I wanted to be part of the new Real Madrid. And I had a chance to show I could be part of it. That's what it was and I wanted to be involved with that. The situation at Chelsea was the sweetest dream as a footballer. I wanted to be playing in the Champions League final. I wanted to win the Premiership. There is so much belief in this squad that we believe we can win everything.'

And he was willing to work overtime to achieve the expectations that belief dictated.

He was brought up in the traditional English football family, in the pre-Starbucks old school where managers passionately talked tactics with their players over suspect bacon and eggs in greasy cafes, the HP sauce bottle and the salt and pepper pots part of the 'war games', the Heinz ketchup and teacups defending, the forks and knives and spoons in attack formation, the sticky Colman's mustard jar the inside post.

It had been his father Frank Lampard's classroom during his many years with West Ham and there were lots of hard knocks in the lessons, on and off the field.

The attitude back then was that, even if you were injured, you played on; you got on with it. Then you got up and did it all over again. You played every game you possibly could. You embraced the pain.

His father learned by watching and listening to Bobby Moore representing England and playing for West Ham. The always perfectly calm Moore rated Frank Senior extremely highly; the work ethic, the training, the extra training, was passed on from the only England captain to lead his country to a World Cup win to his friend and team-mate.

That, in turn, was passed on from father to son: the two Frank Lampards mirror each other in more than name.

When Ron Greenwood wrote of the much-missed Bobby Moore in his autobiography Yours Sincerely, he might well have been writing about the Frank Lampard of 2005, a player who has the capacity to emulate Moore with the national team: 'He read the game uncannily well, his anticipation always seemed to give him a head start, he was icily cold at moments of high stress and his positional sense was impeccable. He was at his best when his best was most needed and his concentration never let up. He made football look a simple and lovely art.'

It was in this world that young Frank paid attention. He learned his lessons at his father's often black and blue, bruised knees.

Which is why he thrived at the nervy centre of Chelsea's spend, spend, spend culture. He did what he did best - his work. He got on with his job in an extraordinary atmosphere and didn't just survive but thrived during Chelsea's remarkable metamorphis from bankrupt to bankrolled.

Terry Venables, who has the Chelsea captaincy on his colourful CV, said in 2004 that no one 'in their wildest dreams' could have predicted the 'extraordinary chain of events that has made Chelsea the most talked about football club in the world today'.

Certainly, before Abramovich moved his sporting interests to the West, Chelsea were facing fantastic debts, showing losses rivalled only by Fulham and Leeds.

The talk was not of championships and Europe, but of survival. What if Abramovich hadn't materialised?

In early 2003 Chelsea were not the most obvious choice. Abramovich wanted a team in the Champions League. It did not look like Frank and his team-mates would make it.

The big hurdle, the last game of the season, was against Liverpool at the Bridge on 11 May 2003. Just under 42,000 people turned up to see Frank and the Blues triumph 2-1.

It was more than another victory: for on that day that line-up of numbers was enough to win them the football lottery.

Russian Revolution? History! In football terms, Abramovich's purchase of Chelsea was a much bigger shake-up. Yet, Frank Lampard had learned his history lessons, with his A-grade Latin. He became one of Chelsea's highest class performers, one of English football's top-three earners ( £99,000 a week in early 2005) and regularly the fulcrum of the team.

Frank Lampard introduced his own grammar into the Babel of world football. It was distinctive and winning. The player who believed he might be locked out of the squad instead became its lynchpin, a leader and an inspiration. He's now as requisite, as indispensable as it ever gets in one of the most dispensable businesses where, at his level, a hamstring is about all you've got between yourself and a multi-million pound career.

One reason was because Frank was always playing, always on the field. His record of more than 130 consecutive appearances provoked Sir Alex Ferguson to pronounce Frank's feat as 'freakish'.

A strange choice of word. Then again, the fiercely competitive Ferguson would hire Frankenstein and the bearded lady if they had Frank's talent with a football. Rival fans, of course, would say Ferguson already has one or two.

'I always want to play and there are a few reasons I can. One has to be luck, not getting injured. Another is I play with minor knocks at times. I'm not saying I'm Braveheart compared to others, but I do just get on with it. And I do a lot of extra work; not so much gym work, I won't go in and pump iron, but I do like to do as much as I can on the training pitch. I'll practise my finishing, my passing, my dribbling and my sprints. Maybe that all contributes to that bit of luck I have staying fit. It's something my old man has instilled in me since I was a kid. Now, if I don't do that bit extra, I don't go into the game feeling I've prepared right.'

His strict regimen has paid off. His is one of the first names on an England teamsheet. His ever-present performance in Euro 2004 was overshadowed by the emergence of Wayne Rooney, but that was in the media spotlight, not in the dressing and conference rooms of world football. Rooney was a super story. Lampard was already a great, established player.

Months on, in January 2005, that was accepted fact and Frank got forty percent of the vote as Footballer of the Year for 2004. England captain David Beckham - the winner in 2003 - was in sixth place. Wayne Rooney was second (16 percent) followed by Steven Gerrard (9.8), Ashley Cole (9.4) and Shaun Wright-Phillips (7).

'I wouldn't say it's fair, that's not my job,' England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said diplomatically. But, still careful with his words, he added: 'I congratulate Frank who has done very well for us.'

Frank is a champion, a Footballer of the Year, a graduate of a tough but honest, solid and loyal background and upbringing, and considered by the experts as the most effective midfielder in English football. They say the boy is the father of the man.

As such, with a childhood smothered in England football legend, Frank Lampard Junior has an extravagant pedigree. He is employed by one of the youngest, and all-around thoroughly, dutifully controversial, richest men in the world. He is looking at huge honours for his club and country and personally.

Chelsea are celebrated as the most entertaining team in England in their centenary year of 2005. They are enormous on the world stage - their kit is now sold in ninety countries and Frank's No. 8 jersey is a favourite worldwide. It sells in Beijing as well as Barking.

On the horizon, forty years on from that other East End boy Bobby Moore's global conquest, is World Cup 2006.

Anything is possible, especially in such a landmark year. At the centre of it is Frank Lampard. He's known from television to the terraces as 'Lamps', but with such a worldwide buzz he deserves another title. Let's call him the Prince of the King's Road.  

Frank Lampard

Front Cover of Super Frank Lampard