London (AFP) – With rain lashing Chelsea’s training ground, Frank Lampard’s team-mates had long since retreated to their palatial changing rooms, but for the tireless midfielder the hard work was only just beginning.
When Lampard called time on his glittering 21-year career on Thursday, the 38-year-old was typically gracious and humble about his remarkable journey.
But it was notable that Lampard has no intention of sitting still and his focus has already turned to the next chapter in his football life as he prepares to move into coaching.
It was ever thus for one of England’s greatest goal-scoring midfielders, a man who rose to the top through bloody-minded determination and a relentless work ethic that ensured that, while he might not have been as naturally gifted as some of his peers, he would earn the right to compete alongside and often outshine the world’s best.
Nothing encapsulated Lampard’s commitment to honing his art more than that soggy scene at Chelsea headquarters before the 2007 FA Cup final.
By then, Lampard — son of former West Ham star Frank Lampard Senior — had already eclipsed his father’s achievements by winning the Premier League twice with Chelsea and establishing himself as an England international.
Yet even then Lampard wouldn’t allow himself to take a breather after a training session in torrential rain.
Instead, he grabbed a bag of balls, lined them up on the edge of the penalty area and proceeded to take a series of shots for more than 15 minutes.
Lampard’s club record 211 goals for Chelsea didn’t appear in the record books just by luck and this was the craftsman in his element, working on the angles and power that helped him outwit goalkeepers when the stakes were highest.
Less than 24 hours later, Lampard was voted man of the match after providing the assist that led to Didier Drogba’s winner in the Cup final against Manchester United.
– Courage and nous –
As he walked off the Wembley turf, Lampard was approaching his peak and reaping the rewards of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s motivational skills.
Fittingly for a player renowned for making perfectly timed runs to unhinge opposing defences, Lampard’s timing was spot-on when he joined Chelsea for £11 million in 2001.
West Ham fans might have been enraged by what they saw as a betrayal by one of their own, Lampard having emerged from the club’s youth academy, but his move to the west London club — and fierce West Ham rivals — was essential for his development.