Name: Frank Lampard
Date of Birth: 20/06/1978
Height: 6′ 0″ (184cm)
Weight: 13st 12lbs (88.0kg)
Clubs: West Ham Utd, Swansea City (loan)
Chelsea’s 2008/09 Player of the Year continues to improve with age.
Entering the new campaign off the back of the one he called his best ever, Lampard has already made his mark, netting in the Community Shield win over Manchester United and taking his international goals tally to 20, while helping book England’s place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Four goals at Wembley in a month added to his recent trend of scoring every time he visits, including May’s FA Cup winner against Everton, struck from 25 yards on his weaker left foot, the perfect way to sign off for the summer.
Once again it was a campaign in which the midfielder scored consistently, adding another 20 in Chelsea colours to make it 100 over the last five seasons.
He quickly got into goalscoring form, netting twice in September before two more followed in October, the latter being an audacious chip from the edge of the area at Hull, an automatic Goal of the Season contender, though eventually edged out by Michael Essien’s volley against Barcelona.
As the performances of those around him began to wane, Frank’s form remained consistent under Luiz Felipe Scolari, scoring key goals over Christmas against West Brom and Fulham to keep us in touch with the league leaders.
An overturned red card at Liverpool in February earned rare sympathy from outside Stamford Bridge, and the arrival of Guus Hiddink brought extended freedom for the former West Ham man, who repaid his coach with vital goals in a late win over Wigan and a 4-4 Champions League thriller against Liverpool, before we eventually bowed out in controversial circumstances against Barcelona.
Months before committing to a new five-year deal in the summer of 2008, Frank had scored a dramatic equaliser in the Champions League Final in Moscow, while also converting a penalty in the shootout.
It remains the one club medal that has eluded him since eyebrows were raised over an original £11 million transfer fee paid eight years ago.
Since then Lamps has become Chelsea’s top scoring midfield player ever; is the club’s fifth highest scorer of all-time and is only the second player to win 50 international caps while a Chelsea player.
In 2006/07, his 62 games was the highest total by any Chelsea player in a single campaign and although the next year was affected by two rare injuries and bereavement, Frank continued to drive Chelsea on from midfield game after game after game.
When in December 2005, he finally missed a game due to a virus, it brought to an end a new Premier League record of 164 consecutive appearances.
Ironically, Frank’s ever-present habit was one of the reasons why he was under-appreciated by some at the club that nurtured him.
With Frank’s father the West Ham first team coach, sections of the support at Upton Park cried nepotism over the young player’s regular place in their side. He was ever-present in the Hammers team that finished fifth in ’98/’99 and was capped for England the next season.
When manager Harry Redknapp and Frank senior were sacked from Upton Park, it was time for our Frank to move on.
After a quiet start at the Bridge, he bloomed into one of Europe’s finest and in 2003/04, Frank’s phenomenal form was only beaten by Thierry Henry when English football’s individual awards were handed out.
He was well worth his place in the Euro 2004 team and was voted the England team’s Player of the Year.
The top performances continued to come, as did the goals, Frank’s powerful shooting firing Chelsea to the 2004/05 Championship as he top-scored from midfield with 13 in the League and 19 overall – there was no one more appropriate to score those magical goals at Bolton.
The Sportswriters’ Footballer of the Year that year (only the second Chelsea winner in over 50 years) and runner-up in the European and World Player of the Year voting for 2005, Frank continued to prove as close to indispensable as can be found in modern squad-based football as his team duplicated the Premiership success in 2005/06.
Again the vice-captain was top scorer, this time with 20 goals. His 16 in the League was the highest total ever by a Premiership midfielder.
That made it all the more surprising when Frank failed to register on the score sheet in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, despite shooting more frequently than anyone.
It drew outside criticism, his years of incredibly consistent achievement seemingly forgotten overnight.
He needed prove himself to nobody at Chelsea, and Frank also continued to create goals at a rate unrivalled at Chelsea, leading former boss José Mourinho to simply describe him as unique.
In 2007/08, having missed September with a thigh injury, his return to the side in early October coincided with a gradual climb up the league table. He contributed 11 goals before his other thigh was strained on Boxing Day. Another six weeks were missed.
That was unfortunate but genuine tragedy struck in April with the death of Frank’s mother. His courage and nerve in scoring a vital Champions League semi-final penalty against Liverpool on his return from compassionate leave, followed by his Moscow goal, were among that season’s strongest images.
Even Frank’s harshest critics began to re-evaluate their opinions, and now at the age of 31 he is finally being appreciated in an England shirt too, playing a slightly deeper role to accommodate the Steven Gerrard / Wayne Rooney axis.