Plenty of things have been said about Frank Lampard over the past decade – both positive and negative – but you can’t deny the man’s ability to produce goals on a consistent basis.
Last night’s penalty for Chelsea in the 1-1 draw at Fulham took the England international to 150 strikes in the top flight, joining Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Robbie Fowler and Andy Cole in a very select group of players on or above that figure.
Lampard stands out in this list of modern greats as the only midfielder, and whilst his professional career now spans over 16 years, it’s in the last decade that the 33-year-old has risen to the fore.
After breaking his leg as a teenager at West Ham United, Lampard became a regular from the 1997-98 season onwards, and showed an eye for goal with 24 over the next four seasons.
However, the departure of uncle Harry Redknapp as manager at the turn of the Millennium signaled the end of his time at Upton Park, with Chelsea paying £11 million to take Lampard across the capital to Stamford Bridge.
In his first four seasons with the Blues, Lampard played in all-but one of the club’s matches, and reached double figures in the goals charts for the first time in 2003-04 as Chelsea took second in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival the following year helped the Blues to the title, and Lampard’s personal tally was on the rise once again as he added 13 goals and then 16 the following season as the west London club achieved successive championships.
His most prolific season came in 2009-10 however, hitting 22 goals in the league and 27 in all competitions. It again helped the club to a title.
The pattern appears relatively simple – when Lampard has a great season; Chelsea have a great season.
For a decade now, the central midfielder has been making the difference on the King’s Road, notably scooping the club’s Player of the Year award each time they won the title.
And, when the chips were down this season under Andre Villas-Boas, he came back stronger than ever after the former Porto chief got the chop. Under Roberto Di Matteo, he has once again become an influential figure in the side.
Whilst ‘AVB’ was right to try and make changes for the future, he was wrong to try and remove the old guard altogether. Whilst Lampard certainly doesn’t have the fitness of five years ago, he still has the ability to create space for himself to shoot, or more importantly find a pass for someone else to try and score.
And, whilst the days of him playing all 38 games in a domestic season are now gone, Lampard is certainly not over the hill. Recent performances have proved he still has plenty to offer. 37-year-old Paul Scholes could be the perfect example to suggest that there are three or four more years in the tank.
With that in mind, 200 goals might just be too much for the player, who is 37 behind Cole and a staggering 110 behind Shearer in the Premier League’s all-time scoring charts.
But that shouldn’t detract from Lampard’s achievement, especially when you consider that his game is about so much more than goals.
"I'm pleased to try to help the team and score goals. Landmarks are great. But, at the present time and with the position we're in in the league, every league game is a final for us and we want to be winning them," reflected Lampard post-match last night.
That sums up the man – more interested in his team’s fight for a Champions League place than his own personal achievements.
And it’s for that reason that Lampard is a true Chelsea legend, deserving of his place amongst club icons like Peter Osgood, Bobby Tambling, Ron Harris and a select group of others.
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