LAMPARD: LONDON PRIDE

Posted on: Sat 14 Apr 2012

There is the little matter of two games against a certain team from Spain and Newcastle are involved in the race for Champions League places, but regardless of that, Chelsea's end of the season does have a capital-city-contest flavour about it.

At least one out of ourselves, Arsenal or Tottenham will miss out on a top-four spot in the league but before it is decided whom, there is today's all-London date at Wembley Stadium.

The honour of being London's top dog has long been prized by the supporters involved, even to the extent where it alone was sometimes claimed as success from a season, but with Premier League football now so global and London's major clubs often playing on a big European stage, does being the pride of London still count for much?

'Of course it does,' insists Frank Lampard, a native of the metropolis and 16 years a first-team player for Chelsea and West Ham United combined.

'I think that rivalry between the fans is always there, in fact I think it grows almost every year and particularly with players who have been at their clubs long enough to understand the rivalry over the years, it stays as strong.

'Whether it is trying to beat Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final, or finish above Arsenal and Tottenham in the league, it is always there and it is healthy.

'Everyone has different measures of success now,' he adds. 'Arsenal haven't won the league recently but they want to get into the top four every year. For us we are in that same boat with them and Spurs now but recently we have been all about winning the league.

'There is a rivalry between us but it has also turned into a battle about that third or fourth spot which has probably made it bigger this year.'

Naturally, for players like Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole who have always lived in or around the city, empathy with how the fans feel about London derbies comes easily.

'Players who have grown up with it do feel it more in their system, that is human nature,' Lampard agrees.'If you talk to the Portugal boys, the ex-Porto players here, they don't like Benfica so much and you feel that if you have grown up amongst it.

'Every club has its own rivalries and sometimes it comes from playing another team more. Chelsea v Liverpool became a big rivalry because of the amount of times we played them over a few years and now with Tottenham, we have them in the Cup and we are in contest with them in the league, whereas West Ham are out the Premier League at the moment so the rivalry is less.'

There is little doubt the last 10 to 15 years has been a strong period in the history of London football and, whereas in the past teams from Liverpool and Manchester might have drawn more the attention of youngsters in the capital, there has been plenty of good football on the doorstep to win their affections. Lampard admits though that London is overdue a Champions League triumph.

'When the quality of the London clubs, the stadiums and the infrastructure is so high, you would expect that kids in the London area would follow one of the teams here,' says the 33-year-old, 'unless people supported teams from the north in past eras and that has passed down through the generations, but London football is so strong that it will keep most of the kids interested whatever other teams are in-form, which is healthy.

'The Champions League is a very tough competition to win but London is the sort of city that deserves to have a team that has done it, and I am sure over the course of time it will happen, but how much in the future is hard to know.

'There is enough quality in the London teams to do it. Arsenal have been to a final and we have been to a final so it is just a case of getting over that last hurdle.'

Lampard

If selected today, Lampard will play his 10th Chelsea game at the new stadium. With all his England appearances there too, Wembley, despite being just five years old in its current form, now feels a venue with its own story for our midfielder.

'It is just an amazing stadium,' he insists.

'The dressing rooms are nice but there are nice dressing rooms all over the world, but there is an element of history with the Wembley name and when you are on the pitch and you look around, it is beautiful stadium.

'It is so vast and whenever you play there it is generally either for your country, or your club which has half the stadium so the atmosphere can't fail to be brilliant.

'There was that fear with losing the twin towers at the old stadium and you wondered whether the history would be lost, but because of the quality of the stadium and the games played there, the Champions League final has been there, and it is always pretty much packed to the rafters for every big game, it has taken on its own history again. In that time it has become very special.'