The word “legend” is tossed about far too casually these days, but there is one man who will incontrovertibly come to mind when using it in conjunction with Chelsea.
The embodiment of hard work and the desire to succeed, Frank Lampard has become one of the most successful and decorated players this league has ever seen. He has reached milestone after milestone and broke record after record, ones that will likely never be matched by any player, and definitely not at one club. More than that though, he was our beloved midfielder for over a decade. Lampard was never merely a player who enjoyed his career with Chelsea, but one who came to love the club, truly believe its supporters are the best in the land, and become an absolute hero and a part of our very fabric.
In addition to his attitude, consistency, ability to step in and lead the team when needed, and of course, his winning goals, we’ve always been proud that Frank is regarded as the consummate professional, an attribute he boasts for the entirety of his career. He is still doing what he does best, at the top level, despite his age and the need for him to adapt his style of play as that age increases. Therefore, it is upon us to accept, begrudgingly or not, that Frank will continue to do so as long as he is playing, and no matter who for. And, to be sure, if Frank ever does actually make it to the MLS, he will continue at this admirable level there too.
Few people can be more gutted than I upon hearing that my childhood idol was not to arrive in New York this month, as previously promised. The only thing that mollified me over Frank’s departure from Chelsea was that he would be coming to New York, and prolonging the wait has, needless to say, made no strides in alleviating the feelings that still accompany his absence in the squad every week. And with a couple of ‘ins’ that might allow me to steal an interview with, or at the very least, a little stalking of, the great man himself, there is a great deal at stake here.
In truth, while the fans –Chelsea, MLS, or just Frank Lampard’s- have lost out a fair a bit in this scenario, it is quite clearly New York City FC who has come off the worst. They signed (or thought they signed) a marquis player. Whatever their business model, and perhaps it is a foolish one, the MLS has historically attracted fans and casual viewers alike by signing talented stars nearing the end of their careers (dating back to pre-Beckham and even pre-MLS days, when Pele signed for the New York Cosmos in 1975). NYCFC have done no different in signing Lampard and David Villa. You might condemn the fans for establishing their support and buying season tickets based on Lampard’s arrival, but honestly, can you blame them? For everything that Lampard is- and the MLS isn’t- it would be difficult not to do so.
However, the biggest concern for Chelsea is the fact that Frank is banging in the goals for our greatest (only viable) title rivals, taking what he did countless times for our benefit and turning it against us. Whatever the situation, we have to ask whether Lampard can (is, even) helping win City the title; it certainly hurts seeing him saving the day for them, especially when our results go the wrong way.
Yet you can hardly reproach Lampard for taking Pellegrini up on the offer to train with Manchester City to stay fit for the start of New York’s season in March, until the end of the year. A simple loan deal between sister clubs, it would seem. Thus it was the circumstances- and the controversy surrounding them- that resulted in Lampard’s presence at City for the second half of the Premier League season, thereby missing the first half of the MLS one too, which did not sit well with New Yorkers, or Chelsea supporters. Fans on both sides of the pond have been left feeling that City dishonestly manoeuvred Lampard’s transfer to them through New York.
If that is the case (and honestly, is it so farfetched to believe that a portion of this was out of Lampard’s hands? Up against a wealthy, financially powerful sheikh who is busy buying up any number of football clubs on each continent), the comfort is that it was not of Lampard’s own volition, as he believed he was signing for New York. He certainly had no apparent interest in going to City-or any other English club for that matter- when he was in talks regarding his future in the summer, and in truth he did sign some sort of agreement for NYCFC.
Perhaps Lampard’s quotes, in which he expressed he would never play for another English club, were misunderstood or misconstrued-or maybe he never really meant what he said. I would like to believe that he was not being deceitful and he did not foresee this happening, and after thirteen years at Chelsea, it is certainly no secret how Lamps feels about the club and about us. At the very least, we owe it to him to give him a proper reception at the Bridge; it would be a disgrace not to, and to boo him would be categorically unacceptable.
Of course we would all prefer to see him in a NYCFC shirt than a MCFC one, but it is a different shirt, one of a darker shade of blue, that Lampard once pulled on-648 times, to be exact- that we should be concerned with. The general consensus is that Lampard is the greatest player to have put on that shirt, and nothing will ever change that. So while we support the team for ninety minutes, remember everything Frank has done for us, and show him, before and after the match, that we appreciate it.
By Nikki Davidson – follow her on twitter @NikkiDcfc