Frank Lampard regularly wrote new chapters in football’s history books, but that was no happy knack: the East Ender’s stellar career was testament to the virtues of self-improvement and dedication.
The attacking midfielder, renowned for his peerless ability to find space in the area – and then find the net – arrived for £11m from West Ham in 2001. A relatively quiet start alongside big personalities such as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Emmanuel Petit belied what was to follow as he emerged a leader in the finest teams ever to grace Stamford Bridge.
The 164 consecutive Premier League appearances he notched up (a record for any outfield player) speak of consistency but mask his more exceptional qualities. The no.8 would play vital roles in all of Chelsea’s remarkable successes between 2005 and 2013, from the winning goals at Bolton in 2005 that won the league for the first time, through the 2010 Double, to his captaincy of the side that lifted successive European cups in 2012 and 2013.
In May 2013 he eclipsed Bobby Tambling’s long-standing goalscoring record of 202 and left having established a new high of 211. Medals for three Premier League wins, four FA Cups, two League Cups, as well as those Europa League and Champions League triumphs, were rewards for hard work as well as physical and mental strength.
A methodical self-analyst, advised by his ever-present father, Frank senior, the midfielder would spend each close season improving what he could in his game – set-plays, penalties, bursts of pace, through-passes – to become the complete footballer, with admirers worldwide.
He was named football writers’ Footballer of the Year, runner-up in the 2005 European and World Player of the Year polls, and was routinely mentioned by his peers as one of the top players in the game.
Thoughtful and intelligent, Lampard’s almost metaphysical connection with the Blues’ faithful was forged when, in the wake of his mother’s shock death in 2008, he dispatched a vital Champions League penalty against Liverpool then looked, moist-eyed, to the heavens. Under Munich skies in the same competition four years later, he was raising the trophy that signified the club’s greatest ever night.
After 13 years at the Bridge Frank departed in June 2014 as one of the finest players in Chelsea Football Club’s history, and perhaps the best of the lot.