I’ve been feeling this way for a while now, but haven’t had the courage to come out and say it. I know it’s only three little words, but what if it’s not reciprocated? What if I’m laughed at? The words, of course, are those that goes through my mind increasingly each time I see Chelsea play, so here they go. Lampard is quality.
Ok, so now it’s out it doesn’t seem that big a deal. Of course Frank Lampard is quality. He’s the first name on a team sheet of a squad of world class internationals and (albeit a less qualifying piece of evidence) an established England player. He combines hardwork with unquestionable class, and scores goals and provides assists more consistently than Monday follows Sunday, as anyone with him in a Fantasy Football team would concur.
Yet there’s something that has made me feel the need to blurt my feelings so publicly. Until this season, I myself was a Lampard hater. His deflected goals, his inability to play well for England, his insistence that he has the lowest body fat percentage at Chelsea – the very fact that he plays for Chelsea – all of them unforgivable. But that was when I knew my criticism of him didn’t matter. He probably is good, I thought, because other players say he is. And he does score a lot of a goals for a midfielder, even if they are always off ankles and arses, I would muse. But he’s Fat Frank, I don’t like him, and he’s overrated, I would conclude.
But this season my eyes have finally opened to Lampard as a truly brilliant player. His ability to see the correct pass and execute it perfectly is second to none, and the importance of his control of the ball when receiving the two of a ‘one-two’ in and around the area cannot be overestimated. He combines quality with the quality of being effective which evades so many others. And now that I’ve seen the light I assumed, as people do, that everyone else had been enlightened too. That was until the PFA Player of the Year awards were announced, sans Frank. Bemusing. His own fellow professionals had finally given up on supporting their most consistent peer.
So now has come the time to admit we went too far. Saying that someone’s useless when it doesn’t make an ounce of difference to anything except winding up your Chelsea friends is fine. But when it culminates in unfairly depriving one of the country’s best players the recognition he deserves… well, it’s unfair.
This isn’t for the West Ham fans who genuinely believe they despise Lampard from the barrels of their heart, nor the one’s who pretend they do. They’re another story for another time. This is for the me’s of season’s gone, and my friend who last week said that Lampard would have to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final for him to forgive him. (“Forgive him for what?” “For being a c***”).
We’ll probably have to accept that Lampard isn’t going to use England to transform public opinion in Beckhamesque fashion. But then we don’t have to love Lampard like we love Beckham. All I ask is that we give him his dues, and admit that he’s quality.