Frank Lampard needs no introduction and continuing our feature talking to former players about either their home or away experiences depending on where this weekend’s game is taking place, we hear from the Chelsea legend about his games away from Stamford Bridge…
Should Chelsea beat Crystal Palace tomorrow it will set a new club record for consecutive away wins while a top-flight club. The fact the current joint-best run was set by a Blues side containing Frank Lampard comes as no surprise.
Plenty of Chelsea records relating to away wins were set by teams in which he was such a major part. As well as the six-in-a-row in all competitions that could be beaten this weekend, there are the longest winning league sequence, the best away run at the start of a season, the most away wins in a season. The list goes on.
At times during Lampard’s Chelsea career the away form was even better than the home form, and that was when the home form was up there with the best in the club’s history. It often went against the generally held belief that it is far harder to get results on the road than it is in your own stadium.
‘Looking back on my time, playing away from home was difficult in the Premier League,’ says Lampard, speaking to the official Chelsea website this week, ‘but we had a fantastic spine of players and no matter who the manager was, that spine was a very determined one.
‘When you go away from home, you have to be organised and have a real desire to keep getting wins, and if I think back and think about Petr Cech in goal, Didier up front, hopefully myself, John Terry, Ashley Cole and going back a bit further to Claude Makelele and more, there were people who were good players obviously but they had a real desire. When you go away you have to be so on your game. Fortunately we had a mentality about us that really helped us on the road.’
That does not mean those Chelsea sides simply turned up and played the same way week in, week out regardless of the venue.
‘We would change the way we played,’ confirms Lampard, ‘and we didn’t expect to go out and play glorious football every week, we could be pragmatic.
‘We felt very comfortable at the Bridge. I always felt we would win at the Bridge throughout my years there but going away from home you realise it is not always that way. Many a time I remember sitting on the coach with John and the lads and saying we will take a 1-0 here, whether that was going to Wigan away when they were doing well, or a tough local derby like Tottenham away.
‘Sometimes we would take a 1-0 and come back happy. The basis of our mentality was it was not going to be easy on the road but we were very much up for the fight no matter what.’
So if the team ran out for kick-off at an away ground primed for a very testing 90 minutes, did it make a genuine difference to see a noisy, blue-shirted contingent filling up whichever section of the stadium had been allocated to the visiting fans?
‘The away support at Chelsea was always fantastic!’ enthuses the man who made 648 appearances for the club.
‘I know players always back their own fans but I have to say the Chelsea fans never let us down no matter what. They were entitled to have high expectations in the end because we had a really good team but every game was the same, there was support from the beginning, support for individual players, support for the team. That never failed once in my 13 years at Chelsea.
‘No matter where you are, when you go away it is a huge inspiration when you see and hear the Chelsea fans in whatever corner supporting you.
‘I always felt the support especially at Fulham,’ Lampard notes, ‘because our fans took pretty much all of the stand where you run out, but not just Fulham. The Tottenham away game was a big one for me because it was so talked about how we had one over on them for so long, and the fans were relevant to that. And I always have a real soft spot for playing at Aston Villa because when I broke the [Chelsea goalscoring] record the fans were in the corner there.’
Rather than finding certain opposition stadiums intimidating when he played there, Lampard noticed more the ones where the Blues backing was less audible.
‘There are a few grounds where they managed to nullify the away-fan effect and those are the ones where they stick them in the gods. Barcelona was one of those. They stick them 100 metres up so you can hardly hear them. Newcastle was the Premier League ground that tended to do that.
‘I think there should be some atmosphere from the away fans, I think we all appreciate that. There were some grounds where the fans could not be so vocal but you always felt them there anyway.’
To conclude his recollections of his Chelsea away days, Lampard selects a few of his all-time favourites. There are quite a few from which to choose!
‘I will go Anfield, the second-to-last game of our championship season in 2010, when Drogba and myself scored the two goals (pictured top). It was such a pivotal game and the rivalry we had with Liverpool over the years meant they would really want to stop us winning the league, and vice versa when we stopped them a few years later.
‘Going back over the years there were the Tottenham wins - on a personal note in 2005 when I scored two there and we won 2-0. Upton Park, every game when we won there, and Blackburn away, 1-0 in 2005 when we celebrated with shirts off. That was a really pivotal game in that season and a memorable moment, that picture of everyone going to the fans at the end.’
And then there is of course Barcelona in 2012. There is an argument for claiming the Champions League final in Munich as an away match but technically it was a neutral venue. Camp Nou in the semi-final certainly was not.
‘The relevance of beating probably the best club team in history was huge,’ decides Lampard. ‘I don’t know if they were quite at their best at that moment but they weren’t far away and to be down to 10 men and be 2-0 down on the night and to come back to win on aggregate, that is the icing on the cake. That was the top moment.’