It was on Thursday 14 June 2001 when London’s underground whisked Frank Lampard, West Ham United’s 22 year-old midfielder, a baby-faced graduate from their prestigious academy, from Upton Park tube station to Fulham Broadway, from West Ham to Roman Abramovich’s Russian revolution at Chelsea.
The departures of uncle Harry Redknapp and father Frank senior from the Boleyn Ground had inexorably swayed his senses to a Chelsea move, agreeing a £11m and a five-year contract despite interest from David O’Leary’s European Cup semi-finalists Leeds United as West Ham confirmed Glenn Roeder as his uncle’s successor.
Upon his signature, Chelsea chief executive Colin Hutchinson spoke of lowering the average age in the squad with the acquisition of a promising Lampard, a process Jose Mourinho could oversee this summer at SW6. At this season’s last home game, a dull stalemate with Norwich City, Lampard, winged by fellow sentries Ashley Cole and John Terry, paid tribute the Matthew Harding Stand, Cole particularly emotional. They then bowed in unison, hands interlocked, their appreciation of Stamford Bridge’s support exuding farewell.
It is yet unknown whether the famed trio will be offered contract extensions, but Mourinho’s recent hinting at the possibility and Chelsea’s continued ignorance of their policy to offer only one-year contracts for over 30s offers hope to the masses of Chelsea supporters desperate for their retention. The three survived Andre Villas-Boas’s swift attempt at regeneration but their time to depart will finally arrive.
Mourinho implored the club’s chiefs to erect a statue heralding Lampard on Friday and claimed he would promote the retention of the club’s experienced core of Cole, Terry and Lampard in his end-of-term report, which he will submit to the Chelsea hierarchy on Monday.
Was ill-judgement to prevail, the Major League Soccer would be a viable option for the English trio, with Chelsea’s interest in Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno and Everton’s revelation Ross Barkley would suggest the planning of a regeneration project. Kurt Zouma’s January signature accentuates the club’s search for the successors of the experienced core.
It would be imprudent of the club to decline offering Lampard a contract extension and even Mourinho’s wish for the construction of a statue in recognition of 13 years of sterling service, aiding the work of Roman’s Russian roubles in enticing success at the Bridge.
Upon arrival in June 2001, he spoke of his strong desire to compete in Europe. “It’s always been my ambition from day one to play European football” , he said, ultimately captaining Chelsea in 2012’s Champions League final in Munich and in Amsterdam for last term’s Europa League triumph.
He is a legend at Chelsea, the subject of an incredible goal-scoring record, overtaking Bobby Tambling last season to become the highest goalscorer in Chelsea history. He merits a statue, alongside the great Peter Osgood.
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