NORMAN GILLER has been following Frank Lampard’s career for 34 years, and he reckons there’s a lot of life in the England midfielder’s legs yet
When I met Frank Lampard for the first time, I kissed him lightly on the forehead, tickled his tummy and whispered: “Be strong, healthy and, above all, lucky.”
This was 34 years ago. His Dad – Frank Senior – had brought his baby son along to West Ham’s Chadwell Heath training ground for a pre-season photocall.
Dad Frank and I were mates in the lively Bobby Moore drinking school, and I have watched his son’s progress with a casual interest that became intense as he established himself as one of the finest footballers of his generation.
Now, as he approaches the autumn of his career, I am delighted to hear that Chelsea have done a U-turn and are negotiating a deal that will enable him to have his final shots at his second home, Stamford Bridge.
I shared the astonishment of the vast majority of Chelsea fans at the way their club seemed happy for months to let go a player who even on veteran legs is more productive and potent than many of his younger team mates.
He proved with his clinically taken winning goal for England against Brazil last night that he remains one of the most reliable midfield finishers the game has ever seen.
I happened to know (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) that Lampard was strongly tempted to take up a golden contract offer from LA Galaxy, following private conversations with David Beckham, but wise words from Roy Hodgson made him pause before committing himself to wind-down seasons in the United States. Clubs in China and other far-flung football outposts were also monitoring his movements.
Steve Kutner, his agent, could have taken his pick of top-notch clubs, but it is at Chelsea where Lamps wanted to face the final curtain. He has enshrined himself in the record books as their second highest goal scorer of all time and closing in on the Bobby Tambling aggregate total of 202 goals – Lampard is just five short of a record that is into its fifth decade, and having scored 10 goals in 17 league appearances this season, there’s every chance that he could claim it as his own before May.
There is, I believe, sufficient evidence to suggest that Roman Abramovich is a better businessman than me, but he seemed to have developed a blind spot with regards to Lampard’s future. But pressure from an army of Lampard fans and Frank’s amazing form has forced Abramovich to have a re-think, and I understand an offer is being discussed and a deal likely to be struck shortly.
IN THE MEANTIME, Hodgson has seen the green shoots of a half-decent England team. What he needs is Alf Ramsey-style luck.
People forget that going into 1966 Alf was still short of a couple of quality players. Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters did not make their England debuts until World Cup year.
My old Press Box colleagues must get the victory over Brazil into perspective. The Brazilians will be much more formidable opposition with the sun of Rio on their backs rather than playing in the winter chill of Wembley.
But there is much to be optimistic about. Can Hodgson now conjure up a Hurst and Peters to complete his jigsaw before next year’s finals?
And what are the odds that Lampard will be in the squad to greet them?
THE MORONS WHO last night tried to spoil the minute’s silence in respect of the Brazilian nightclub fire and Munich air crash victims, plus the memory of Bobby Moore’s passing 20 years ago, make me despair.
These are the same sort of idiots who were calling on Twitter and Facebook for hatred of Jack Wilshire, just because he plays for a rival club to the ones they support.
Myopia is a major problem for many supporters, who cannot see beyond their club colours.
As somebody with strong Tottenham leanings, I admit to admiration at the way Arsenal’s Wilshire played against Brazil. He gave a mature and commanding performance, but his only recognition with some online was to be described in gutter language as if he was their worst enemy.
It is the job of football writers to try to educate these fickle fools, who do not seem able to appreciate that a successful England team would be the best possible boost for our game.
I cannot let the midweek internationals go without mentioning Gareth Bale, one of the few true home-grown world-class players in the British game.
Lawrie McMenemy told me that Southampton had two likely lads some seven years ago. Their names, Bale and Walcott, who were bosom buddies sharing the same digs.
Back then, young Gareth said his dream was to play abroad “with a team like Real Madrid or Barcelona”.
That dream could easily come true in the next year, with Bale becoming a £60 million target – which would be a hefty deposit on Tottenham’s planned new ground.
The only way Spurs can keep him is by clinching a place in the Champions’ League, and even then I cannot see how they could compete with the £120,000 a week wages that are certain to be dangled.
Rocket Boots Bale is developing his game almost by the minute, and he can now be mentioned in the same breath as his idol Cristiano Ronaldo.
I wonder if he could soon be playing with him? Enter here a Tottenham joker: “Yes, when Spurs sign the Portuguese winger.”
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