FRANK LAMPARD – a gracious winner.
By Gerry Cox, Hayters
It was 15 years ago this week when Frank Lampard did what a clutch of players such as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson are doing now in the middle of a pandemic – restored our faith in footballers as human beings.
The world was a very different place, the football world was different and we were all a bit younger. I was Chairman of the Football Writers’ Association and Frank Lampard had just been voted our Footballer of the Year after a superb season at Chelsea, winning the Premier League title for the first time, scoring over 2o goals from midfield as his manager Jose Mourinho had predicted, and a key part of Sven Goran Eriksson’s England team.
A lot has changed since then. Mourinho won another title, was sacked, came back and won another title and was sacked again. Lampard remained, winning just about every honour the game has to offer with Chelsea, and over 100 caps for England. He is now back as the club’s manager, on course for a top four finish in his first season.
His personal circumstances have changed considerably, too. On the night he won his award, he thanked his mother, Pat, who was in the Royal Lancaster Hotel along with Frank Lampard senior and Harry Redknapp, Frank junior’s uncle. Pat has since passed away. He also paid tribute to his partner Elen who was expecting the first of their two daughters at the time, but they parted three years later and Frank has since married Christine, with whom he has another daughter.
But it was another little girl who occupied Frank’s thoughts on that day in 2005. Lucy was 10, terminally ill with a brain tumour, and a Chelsea fan. Her favourite player was Frank Lampard. She had not been expected to live long en0ugh to see Chelsea collect the Premier League title, but battled on so that she could be at Stamford Bridge to see them beat Charlton in the final game of the season – and get a hug from Frank. She passed away soon afterwards, and her funeral, in Kent, was on the same day as our awards night. Frank was determined to attend and warned me he might be late for the dinner, and sure enough he was stuck in traffic. As the start of proceedings was delayed, some of the 600 or so awaiting his arrival might have thought he was a typical footballer, being fashionably late or threatening not to turn up at all, which has happened once or twice.
But when Frank finally arrived, he could not have been more apologetic, more gracious, more humble. That attitude was reflected in his choice of guests that night. Mixing with footballing royalty including Sir Bobby Robson, Graham Taylor, Gary Lineker and the then England manager Eriksson, as well as dozens of managers, football leaders and former players, were three lads in their 20s, who had no connection with football other than being his boyhood pals and still his best mates.
When he asked how long he needed to speak for, I said: “As long as you feel comfortable with. You can just say a few thank-yous and sit down – whatever you like.” Instead Frank got up and spoke with great humility, some comedy and a lot of emotion, not least when he spoke about Lucy. His speech simultaneously brought a tear to many an eye, and brought the house down. More importantly, it restored faith in footballers among what can be a cynical audience of journalists who have been there and seen it all. And it cemented Frank Lampard’s reputation as one of football’s good guys, someone who cares about the game, his colleagues, and the fans.
Frank’s speech was so uplifting, The Observer ran it in full the following Sunday. Here it is:
“I was told I had to do a speech, to say a few thank yous and was lying in bed a couple of nights ago till about 2.30 in the morning thinking what I was going to say. I had it all planned out perfectly, fell asleep – and then was woken up at 4am when my cars were being driven off in the driveway! This award is massive, an achievement I hold very highly. I watched John Terry pick up the PFA Award earlier this year and was genuinely delighted for him.
This award is voted for by journalists, who can be your biggest critic and get on your nerves sometimes, but they all know football and I am very respectful of their thoughts, and very proud they have decided to give me this award this year.
I look around the room and see so many players [pictures of previous winners] on the wall. I notice there are not so many English players in recent years. With John winning the PFA Award, and me this one, with Jamie Carragher third in this award, as an Englishman it makes me very proud that I have performed well enough to be voted for. It is a great advert for English football.
We are really going to try our utmost to bring the World Cup home next year. We promise that. I will go back to my West Ham days, and I owe a massive thank you to Harry Redknapp.
There were some difficult times for me as a player at West Ham. I remember running on the touchline, and being told: ‘Go and sit down with your uncle and your dad, because you’re not good enough to get on the pitch.’ I would love all those people to be in this room tonight so I could answer them.
I’m sure Harry had people saying the same thing to him about me and I really respect the fact that he stuck with me and that he played me week in, week out. So I would like to say a massive thank you to him and his wife Sandra, who is my aunt – I love her to bits.
Moving on to my Chelsea days, I’d like to say a big thank you to Ken Bates and Suzannah [his wife]. I am very privileged that they have decided to fly over specially for tonight. I know Ken has the money, but he still had to make the effort!
Ken took a chance on me and paid what people thought was a lot of money at the time [£11m]. He had belief in me, as did Claudio Ranieri and without that move, without him putting his money on the table and doing that… I had another offer, to go to Leeds and no disrespect to Leeds, but things might have gone slightly differently.
Claudio was the man, the manager, who made the decision. I met him when I first went to Chelsea and he showed great belief in me, he improved my game no end in the three years I played under him.
For this year I have to thank Roman Abramovich. I know what you’re thinking: thanks very much for that five-year deal I signed last year and I’ll be back knocking on the door in a couple of years.
You have to understand this man and it’s not easy when you see it from the outside. What the man does is he comes in the changing room, win or lose, and shows the emotion that every fan shows and he really means it – and to the players that means so much. We respond to that. I would like to thank him for moving Chelsea on from the fantastic club it was to a club that really is one of the best in Europe and is hopefully going to be a force for future years.
José Mourinho? I cannot say enough about the man as a manager. He has ultimate confidence in himself and the amazing thing is that he manages to transmit that confidence to the players around him. He has given me real belief. I hope to work for him for many years and to be very successful.
I would like to say a big thank you to the England manager. It is a bit embarrassing when he is sitting two seats away from you to give him big praise. But my England career has taken massive strides since he has been manager. You do need a manager to show belief in you and he has done that for me.
A quick thank you to Steve Kuttner, my agent – and also a fantastic mate. Not many people can say that about their agent. And to three of my best mates here tonight, mates I have had since I was very young. It is not easy to take three West Ham boys and turn them into Chelsea boys – but I managed it. I think it has something to do with this: two minutes after the game they’re in the King’s Road having a pint.
The main thank yous are to my family, who have lived everything with me. First to my granddad, Poppa Bill as we used to call him. He died earlier this year. He was a fantastic man and someone I looked up to. I really would have liked him to have seen me here tonight. He would have been really proud.
Also my Nanny Hilda, my dad’s mum. She used to be at West Ham giving out wine gums to everyone who sat around her – now she does it at Chelsea. Unfortunately she still keeps calling the manager Joseph Mourinho. She will never learn.
Then the most important people, starting with my dad. I’m sure I wouldn’t be here without him. I was going really well till then…
I would not be the player I am today without him, I would not have improved without my dad. In the early years, he would have me over the park training when everyone else was at home or playing with their mates, I was jumping on the floor, getting up and running again, sprinting – I will never forget that. I thank him for everything he has done in my football life and for being a dad.
I would also like to thank my mother. The main thing about this award is it’s not just about being a player, but being honoured as a person. She is a hundred per cent the reason why I am how I am and she is one of the best, most fantastic ladies in the world.
My girlfriend Elen is here tonight, and we’re expecting our first baby, a little girl, in August. I’m chuffed to bits and cannot wait. Elen is a big fan of Barcelona and that causes a problem when we watch Spanish football on TV. She sees Ronaldinho take on five players, beat the lot of them and score a great goal, and asks why I don’t do that. I tell her, ‘We’re different types of player.’
This is a personal award, but the main one I won this season was the Premiership – and I could not have done that without the players around me. Everyone has seen how strong we are this year and I would like to say thanks to all of them – and also a massive thank you to all the Chelsea fans. They took me to their hearts very, very quickly and I have nothing but appreciation for them. They give me the confidence to be the player I am today. They are a piece of my heart now and I really mean that.
A lot of the reason I am here is because of my strength, my determination and character. I would just like to talk about a girl called Lucy.
I went to her funeral today, she was 10 years old. She came to the game against Charlton where we lifted the Premiership trophy. She had a tumour on the brain – really she should have died the week before that game. But she was so desperate to come and see that game, to watch us play. The character and strength she showed made me put everything in perspective.
I would like to dedicate this whole award to her, her family, especially her mother, and I would like to say thanks to everyone tonight. Thank you.”