Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea legend Lamps exits as a great of his generation

By Tim Rich

When Frank Lampard left Chelsea, he had one regret: he had not been allowed to say goodbye.

Football handles its departures messily. Lampard, the man who had scored more goals for Chelsea than any other player and who had scored them from midfield, the man who had lifted their only European Cup after the most extraordinary final in Munich, had been waiting to discover whether he would be offered a new one-year contract.

A week after Chelsea's last home game of the 2013-14 season, a goalless draw with Norwich that saw 'Super Frank' substituted during the interval, he was told he would not be coming back.

Cruel is football as Roy Keane, who was dumped even more bluntly by Manchester United, once said. Compared to the way Liverpool stage-managed the departure of Steven Gerrard, one of the few English footballers who could compare to Lampard, it was also clumsy and classless.

The day that Lampard announced that after a stint with Manchester City and New York City he was leaving the game, Chelsea's captain John Terry made amends with a post on Instagram.

"The greatest player in the history of our great club," Terry wrote. "It was an absolute pleasure playing with you, mate, and seeing first-hand the dedication and hard work you put in on and off the pitch. I miss you next to me in the dressing room and miss you grabbing a bag of balls after training when everyone else went inside.

"You have won everything and should be extremely proud. It's been my pleasure and honour to experience those great moments with you."

He added: "648 appearances - we nearly caught Peter Bonetti and Ron Harris - 211 goals and a gentleman on and off the pitch. . . Love you Lampsy."

Lampard was so often compared to Gerrard, another great midfielder, but while the Liverpool captain was softer than his public image, more swayed by what people thought of him, Lampard was considerably tougher.

He was born into football royalty, his father, Frank, a centrepiece of the West Ham teams that won FA Cups and reached European finals with something of a swagger. His uncle was Harry Redknapp.

He went to a fee-paying school, Brentwood, and got an A-grade at Latin.

But, inside, Lampard was hard. Surviving at Chelsea during Roman Abramovich's churn of managers was an art. After he forced his way out of West Ham following his father's sacking, there was Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant, Scolari, Hiddink, Villas-Boas, Di Matteo, Benitez...

Lampard reached the high plateau of his game.

"I had a phase when I felt on top of my game for a few years and nothing can break you," he recalled.

"You don't think. You just play."

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