On the day Frank Lampard is unveiled to the media as our new head coach, we rewind 18 years to his first press conference as a Chelsea player, which also took place at Stamford Bridge.
Back then Lampard was a fresh-faced 23-year-old making his way in the game; he returns as our boss having become one of the greatest midfielders of all time since then and taken some encouraging first steps in the world of management.
Onside, the former official club newspaper, summarised Lampard’s first words to the media back in the summer of 2001 when, having moved across London from West Ham, he outlined his desire to score goals for the Blues, win medals and play regularly on the international stage. How those wishes came true…
Lampard’s new levels
first published August 2001
Two seasons ago West Ham finished ninth having won through the Intertoto Cup into the UEFA Cup, and Frank Lampard finished the season by playing for England for the first time and then captaining his country in the European Under-21 Championships.
The 23-year-old who has signed for Chelsea for £11m on a five-year-contract considers that his best season so far.
‘I scored 14 goals and had a little run in Europe which was good for me. I like to think of myself as a goalscoring midfield player, and I got the goals that year.’
But he admits the before-season and after-season competitive action drained him, and that towards the end of last season he was feeling tired. At their peak, West Ham won FA Cup ties at top-of-the-table Manchester United and second-in-the-table Sunderland in 2001. But, after scoring the two goals at Bradford City which virtually ensured his struggling club’s safety in the Premiership, Frank underwent a hernia operation and hasn’t played since.
‘I’ve had a long summer,’ he smiles.
‘You do get worn down. The last two or three summers I’ve had something going on. I’ve had a good rest now and I can’t wait to get started. I’m raring to go.'
His arrival at Chelsea came in four stages. Firstly, we were looking for two central midfielders. Secondly, when Emmanuel Petit with his defensive qualities was signed, it meant the second one could be more attacking. Thirdly, when Gustavo Poyet left we required especially a midfielder who could score goals. Finally, the changes in management at West Ham meant a player thought not to be available suddenly became available.
At the press conference to announce his arrival, Frank found himself facing five questions on the trot about West Ham. He laid his desires out for all to hear.
‘I want to sit here and talk about Chelsea,’ he said. ‘Hopefully, I can test myself against the best players in Europe, work with a coach who can bring better things to my game. From speaking to the manager, I like what he says tactically, how he sees me fitting in. I had good years at West Ham, but now I feel I can move to another level.
‘They need success here, they’re such a big club.’
Last season was the first time Chelsea have done the double over West Ham in the top flight. Frank only got booked three times in the whole campaign, but picked up two of them in our two games. One was for a foul on Dennis Wise.
‘Dennis said he was going to get me back but he never did,’ Frank laughs. The other was against Slavisa Jokanovic.
He was part of the West Ham team which to Stamford Bridge in 1999 and stole a 1-0 victory to seriously damage our Premiership challenge. ‘I remember it well,’ he says of that match. ‘We packed the midfield, had one chance and scored. We were delighted on the day.’
Playing mostly in the central three of a midfield five, he has also played in a four behind a fifth player in the hole – Berkovic or Di Canio – as well as in a 4-4-2 when he has played centrally and on the right.
‘I can play anywhere across midfield,’ he confirms, ‘but my best is through the middle. I like to get forward from central midfield and score and create goals. I’d like to score more headed goals.’
In his first England game he was substituted by the ‘returning from Hoddle banishment’ Wise under Kevin Keegan. In his second he was a substitute himself, playing the second half in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s first match in charge.
‘I want to get back into the England set-up and win a lot of medals here,’ he states. Having been a West Ham player, medals is something he’s missed out on.
The man who has become a good friend of Jody Morris through England Under-21s, and has known John Terry who grew up in his area, is leaving home in more ways than one, and is not worried his move made him the Premiership’s most expensive midfielder.
‘I’ve been a West Ham player all my life. It’s going to be a massive change for me. But Chelsea is a big club, the sort I’ve always wanted to play for. I’m ambitious.
‘I’ve had the pressure of playing for my Dad and my Uncle at West Ham, so the pressure doesn’t worry me. But I have to show I can stand on my own two feet now, show what I can do.
‘The stadium looks fantastic, and with the players we’ve got we can go all the way. If we perform well, we can go on all fronts. We’ve got the players to be consistent.’
The man who took penalties for West Ham when Paolo Di Canio didn’t grab the ball first is ready for the next month.
‘I’m ready for a hard pre-season. I like running. I know it seems strange, most players hate it. I don’t look forward to it, but when I’m there I don’t mind.’