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Frank Lampard: Truly A Man For All Seasons

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Frank Lampard: Truly A Man For All Seasons
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Whilst great players will come and go from the Premiership (Cristiano Ronaldo), form will rise and fall....and then rise again (Emmanuel Adebayor), and reputations will falter (Michael Owen), one thing seems to remain a constant – the class and consistency of Chelsea and England’s record breaking number eight.

I’m probably the one who is most surprised to be saying this, but after five years of consistent brilliance from the midfield dynamo, I think it’s time Frank Lampard received the unanimous respect he deserves for what he does week-in, week-out, no matter what the circumstances.

Tonight’s England demolition of Croatia - revenge is sweet! - exemplified one of Lampard's greatest qualities – Decisiveness.

It wasn't his greatest game but he still left the field having scored twice in a 5-1 victory. 

Yes, he’s not a flashy player in the mould of a Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Ronaldinho – he won’t beat people for fun and leave you on the edge of your seat with an outrageous piece of skill.

He won’t astound you with his technical brilliance in quite the same way that a Gerrard, Kaka or Xavi might either, although he's no slouch, but when there is a big game to be won, nobody steps up to the plate (no pun intended) quite like Frank Lampard.  

I was amongst the most critical of observers when Chelsea splashed £11m in 2001 on a midfielder, who, although he had been capped by England, seemed functional and merely Premiership class at best.

Two decent seasons then followed in which Lampard made a decent - but far from outstanding impression - before a certain Russian billionaire appeared on the scene splashing millions and seemingly ending the midfielder’s spell in West London.

Only this didn’t happen and was another sign of the resilience and mental strength of a man who had managed to emerge relatively unscathed from the unwarranted accusations of nepotism and abuse he received from his own fans at his first club West Ham.

Despite the millions of pounds that were splashed out to bring “big” names to the club such as Juan Sebastian Veron, Michael Essien and Claude Makelele, Lampard refused to be edged out.

Alongside John Terry, he became the main fulcrum of the Jose Mourinho-managed side, which won consecutive Premiership titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06 – Chelsea’s first league titles in 52 years - and was rewarded for his form with second place finishes in both the FIFA World Player of the Year and the European Footballer of the Year in 2005.

Those accolades came on the back of a highly impressive Euro 2004 in which he was arguably England’s best player, bar a certain Wayne Rooney, scoring three times in four games and cementing his status as one of England’s key men.

Still the doubters refused to be silenced though and a poor World Cup in 2006, in a less than impressive England side, only added more fuel to the fire with people, including me, pointing to Lampard's poor form in an England shirt as evidence that anyone in his position at Chelsea, with the quality of team-mates he had around him, could do the same.

Regrettably for me, I was also amongst a Wembley crowd who jeered Frank Lampard’s name when it was announced over the loudspeaker during a 2007 friendly defeat to Germany.

Two years and four managers later at Chelsea, one thing has remained undiminished – Lampard’s all-action displays, vital assists, selfless running and crucial goals.

While players with more natural talent have coasted along, lost their drive and never fulfilled their massive potential, Frank Lampard has cemented his place in the upper echelon of world football and should have no regrets when the curtain comes down on his fantastic career.

His work ethic, determination and self-belief mean he has not only reached, but has in many cases, surpassed the level of some of the world's best players by using up every single drop of talent he possesses.

His willingness to drop back into the more conservative deeper role that he now occupies in Fabio Capello’s improving England side and allow others to take on the attacking mantle is a sign of his selflessness - his importance to England even in that role, a sign of his value.

Lampard is a player who seems to thrive on adversity with some of the best football of his career being played following the death of his mother and the breakdown of his relationship with the mother of his children.

The boy who started his career on the east side of London now sits as Chelsea’s highest goal-scoring midfielder of all time – joint fifth in total in their history - and will surely go down in history as one of their greatest ever players.

The way this season has begun for his club and country, 2010 may yet end with Frank Lampard celebrating Champions League and World Cup glory.

And assuming that Chelsea don’t come up against Arsenal along the way, there won’t be many more deserving players in my book.

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