It’s been almost four years since Frank Lampard left Chelsea, but even now the supporters will sing his song when there’s a lull in the game — and often when there isn’t. And that’s despite him ending up at Manchester City for a minute and even scoring against us. Such small things are easy to forgive; he is, after all, one of the most beloved figures in our club’s history.
We’re passionate about what he brought during the course of 648 appearances (fourth on the all-time list), including the all-time club record 211 goals. We may take our affection for granted — who wouldn’t, with his complete commitment, decency and club-record 211 goals? — but Frank says it takes work to build the relationship, which is actually all-important.
“It’s not easy to recreate that. Arsenal have had problems with it for years now. Chelsea still have someone like Gary Cahill and there are players who feel the club and care, but you need to show that by taking part in events, going over to clap them and showing your appreciation because it’s the fans who are really buying into the club.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Telegraph
We’d argue that César Azpilicueta certainly belongs in that same breath, and we’d love to argue that Eden Hazard does as well, but the mountain of Real Madrid rumors and his own carefree attitude aren’t necessarily helping that perception. Others may develop in the future, but with the team in near-constant transition these days, it’s tough to recreate that ideal of an ‘Old Guard’ as with the team that Mourinho built a decade and a half ago.
Of course, loyalty is not a simple concept. It takes at least two. Usually more.
In the summer of 2008 Frank Lampard had just completed his seventh season as a Chelsea player. Despite a few injuries and plenty of drama on and off the pitch — Chelsea have never made a Champions League final without sacking a manager during the season! — he contributed his standard 20 goals and dished out 11 assists in all competitions as the Blues finished second in all but one competition we entered that year (only made the quarterfinals of the FA Cup).
So important a player was he that when Jose Mourinho landed at Inter Milan, one of his first moves was to try to lure him to Italy. It could have happened. Lampard was in a difficult contract negotiation with Chelsea at the time time (he was reportedly refusing a four-year deal worth £140,000 a week.) Mourinho was the manager under whom he’d blossomed into a dominant player and clearly there was a connection between the two. His departure was a very real possibility.
So why did he stay? In part because of the support he got from Chelsea fans. (The other part was Chelsea making him the highest paid player in the league. Loyalty, as mentioned above, can be complicated.)
“The fans were certainly part of my decisions. At West Ham I had a difficult relationship with the fans for different reasons, but when I went to Chelsea I really felt that connection, really early.
“It’s not easy to come across London from a rival club and get that straight away, and I did. So certainly when I had opportunities to go and play abroad, the pull of the fans – it wasn’t number one in my thing, but it was right up there.
“You can’t put a price on that support, it’s a big deal. Generally, the rule is if the fans see you giving everything for their club then they will go with you.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Telegraph
And go with him we did, right to very top. Right to the very top.
Ed. note: If you’re wondering why this is coming up now, Lampard, in his role as Barclays Premier League Ambassador, is promoting this ... barely ... interesting study about fans as the proverbial 12th man, called ‘Game Changing fans - The 12th Player in every Premier League team’. The full report, which you can download for free has a few quotes from Zola, but otherwise it’s a rather banal and obvious survey of fans.