When Frank Lampard crowned his 90th international appearance as skipper and celebrated with a matchwinner against world champions Spain, it was a well-earned tribute to one of England’s most loyal servants.
Not always the most popular player to wear the three Lions, Lampard has come through some testing times with his country. But the way he has handled taking over the captain’s armband from controversial Chelsea team-mate John Terry, it is impossible to fault Chelsea’s former West Ham United protege.
Back in 2008 Lampard was jeered – not for the first time – when he came on as a second-half substitute during a comfortable 3-0 win over Estonia in a Euro Championship qualifier at Wembley. I remember Ashley Cole saying: “I can’t believe it. He is one of the best players I have played with. I can’t remember him having too many average games in an England shirt. But Frank is a strong character. If anyone is a strong enough character to deal with that, it is Frank.”
Hearing Lampard’s dignity in his pre-match comments, especially the way he talked about his pride in playing for England and wearing the poppy in remembrance of our fallen war heroes, it was impossible not to feel the utmost respect for the much-maligned star.
There have been times when Lampard’s arrogance and bad-tempered snarling wearing a Chelsea shirt has earned the venom of rival fans. But you can not fault his loyal service to his country. England are most certainly not world beaters despite their 1-0 win over the No.1 team on the planet in a meaningless friendly. But credit where credit is due and it is time for Frank Lampard to take a bow.
Lampard – leading his country in the absence of rested Chelsea team-mate John Terry – headed in from close range in the 49th minute after Darren Bent had struck the woodwork.
I remember back in the 90s when Harry Redknapp promised disbelieving West Ham United supporters at a fans’ forum during his days as Hammers boss that Lampard was destined to play many times for England. Redknapp was heckled for making that audacious prediction about a youngster who was just breaking into the team at Upton Park. But Harry – surely England’s next manager after Fabio Capello departs in the summer – has always been an impeccable judge of football.
For anyone who wants to see why Redknapp was so convinced that Lampard was a star in the making check out one of the great football DVDs I have produced for West Ham United including Hammers Classics, Right Hammerings, and Hammers Greatest Goals, The First 100 Years – The Official History.