How anyone could have thought Lampard was finished is mystifying

It seems incredible to say it now, but as little as four months ago Frank Lampard seemed like a footballer whose great and lengthy career could be winding down.

He was in and out of the Chelsea team as the season neared its conclusion, was tipped to be released at the end of the campaign and appeared to have lost his starting place in the England team to Tom Cleverley.

On top of that, Lampard looked like he might fall agonisingly short of reaching two personal milestones: 100 England caps and Bobby Tambling’s record goals tally for Chelsea.

And if he did leave Chelsea there was talk of him decamping to the USA, a place where European footballers generally go when they are past it.

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea manager
Mourinho’s return has helped Lampard.

But fast forward four months and Lampard’s world looks a very different place.

He broke Tambling’s record in May with two crucial goals in a win at Villa Park that all but clinched another season in the Champions League, and the club saw sense and offered him a new contract.

Jose Mourinho, a manager who knows and loves him, has returned to the club and Lampard has played every second of the four matches so far this season.

His assured place at the heart of the Blues side has helped him win back his spot in the England team, and he picked up his 100th cap in a hard-fought 0-0 draw away to Ukraine on Tuesday night, which leaves England needing two home wins to be sure of a place at the World Cup.

At the moment, it is hard to think Lampard would be anything but centre stage if England do get to Brazil, despite the fact he will turn 36 during the tournament.

Indeed, this week Zinedine Zidane, no less, called Lampard England’s key player, saying: “The one that is standing out and is really a leader is Lampard.”

And England boss Roy Hodgson, who has described Lampard and fellow centurions Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard as “godsends”, opted to substitute Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott in Kiev and not the 35-year-old Lampard.

So what has changed? Has Frank Lampard had some sort of second wind or Indian summer that has seen him re-emerge as a player to be reckoned with?

Most Chelsea fans will actually tell you no, because they will say he never stopped being that.

One of Lampard’s immense strengths in his 12 years at Chelsea has been his consistency. He went years without missing a game, scored 20 goals from midfield five seasons running and has played more than 600 games.

Lampard ended last season in great form.
Lampard ended last season in great form.

Through most of those he has been solid and composed, has pulled the strings in midfield and has nearly always posed a goal threat.

It would be naive to think he will play every game of the season at the age of 35, and no doubt Mourinho will rest him when he needs it.

But he saw no reason to give him a break when matches came along at two a week when the new campaign began, hinting that Lampard will be a player who can expect to play as much as possible.

You wonder whether Lampard ever really did fear he was going to be shown the door.

He is an intelligent and humble man so he must know he will eventually reach a point where he can’t play on at such a high level.

But as the days on his previous contract ebbed away he must also have known he was nowhere near the end of his useful life as a Premier League footballer.

As he returns to Chelsea, no doubt ready to play at Everton on Saturday and hoping to pick up caps number 101 and 102 in the final World Cup qualifiers, the idea that anyone – fans, opponents or the Chelsea hierarchy – might have thought Frank Lampard was a busted flush just a few months ago seems utterly mystifying.


James Clarke is the author of Moody Blues: Following the second-best team in Europe

Follow James on Twitter

Follow West London Sport on Twitter
Find us on Facebook