A Football365 love letter to… Frank Lampard

Date published: Friday 23rd February 2018 12:31

One of the newest pundits but already one of the best and the only one with an A* GCSE in Latin. That’ll be Frank Lampard, then…

 

Why the love?
One of the finest midfielders of his generation and a goalscoring phenomenon, rattling the net 211 times for Chelsea making him their all time top scorer. Used to shoot a lot for England in tournaments, though with much less success.

For many years was unfairly derided for his physical bulk by fans who would’ve loved to have his body fat percentage. But he was never fat, he was just very wide.

A couple of early career youthful indiscretions were quickly left behind and has since always seemed like a grown up who was not one for the low-grade football bantz that so puzzles decent people. There was talk of supporting the Conservative Party in 2007, but one never knows if these things are true. If it is, hopefully the subsequent intellectually and morally moribund omnishambles since has dissuaded him of lending them his vote ever again.

Never as flash as many of his contemporaries in the Golden Generation, one always suspected he was the brightest light bulb in the dressing room and, like many clever footballers, played it down for fear of being labelled ‘the professor’ by others who consider reading books as hard as quantum physics. Scored really high on an IQ test in 2009 which came as no surprise since he had a A* in Latin and Latin is really, really hard and very, very boring.

Has written 18 children’s books in three years and I thought I was doing well to write 16 novels in five. Since retirement he has slipped effortlessly into the pundit’s chair, particularly on BT Sport where he has been especially impressive on the Saturday evening show. As you will see from the comments below, he is very well-regarded by broadcasting colleagues and admired as a fine communicator.

 

Superhero skills
First thing to say is he just seems a very decent sort, has very nice manners and comes over as a very centred human. This means that he’s a pleasure to have on our screens (he doesn’t seem to do radio), never abrasive or rude.

Like all really good communicators, you never feel you’re seeing a front, or veneer. You don’t feel he’s being untrue to himself or working to an agenda. In other words. he’s just very natural. Also like all the best performers in this field, you feel relaxed in his company.

This is partly achieved by that metaphysical thing “vibe”, but it is also achieved by speaking in a calm way, without stumbling, without struggling to draw words out of your vocabulary and having a nicely measured speaking voice.

This is so innate to people who are good on the TV or radio that we take it for granted, so it tends to be one of those things you only notice when someone talks in a staccato way and struggles to articulate themselves coherently.

What he brings to punditry is perhaps a more thoughtful approach. He’s quite unlike anyone else, really. I suspect, like anyone keen to do a job well and not just blag a living, he does careful preparation so that he knows, by and large what he wants to say and how he wants to say it.

Not one of the sit-back-legs-wide-apart alpha males, in both of the clips below you’ll note how he sits up attentively, often with his hands between his knees. He’s also very considered and at times is obviously keen not to default to cliches or to be unreasonable just for effect.

In this classic clip from BT Sport Premier League Tonight Show, which is fascinating in its own right, in which all three perform well, Frank is far from the most forceful character, but you never doubt for a moment that he’s being considered and honest and is very much in the still waters run deep tradition.

 

And again here, he is so self-deprecating and rather charming, it’s impossible not to warm to him.

 

 

Style Guru?
Has clearly never been one to go for the more modish passing style fads and fashions. Everything is blues, blacks or whites. Almost certainly owns an expensive cashmere overcoat and a pair of slacks which are pricey enough not to be called slacks, but still really are.

Shops in the aisle marked ‘smart casual. Very much happy with the open necked plain but expensive, heavyweight mercerised cotton shirt. Often sports one of those tight but lightweight lambswool knitted waistcoats that only someone with a flat belly can get away with, usually worn under softly tailored jackets. One of those fortunate men who looks more rugged and handsome with age.

 

What the people say
As you will see from the quotes sent in by some of our top football TV and radio people, he is incredibly well-liked and admired in the trade. This is a testament to a good team player and someone who is a good mixer:

– ‘I don’t know but I do imagine that there is bound to be initial suspicion of a great ex-player that he’s only got the job due to his high profile playing career and will coast on that. Obviously, from the get-go, Frank had dismissed any such suspicions by doing the most old-fashioned of thing; turning
up and being any good.

He also carries the good wishes of so many fans who loved him as a player. But all in all, it isn’t hard to see why he attracts so much love.

I think his biggest natural skill is his ability to explain & educate in a way we can all understand but it’s done with a warmth that engages you. He’s a natural at it. Very articulate and bright. Has the ability to be as good as anyone in the profession & better than most.

To cap it off he’s a top bloke’ – Darren Fletcher, 5live & BTSport

– ‘As you’d expect he’s the ultimate professional. Calm, insightful, polite and lovely to everyone!’ – Lynsey Hipgrave, BT Sport

– ‘Always took time out to speak to us in mixed zone when others sailed past with headphones on. Always had something to say, beyond the usual cliches. Classy as a player and person, really enjoying him as a pundit’ – Natalie Pirks, BBC

– Stunning signing for BT Sport, also excellent on MoTD. Punditry in the UK has never been better. The quality, honesty and insight is greater now than it’s ever been…yet even in his first season Frank is stand-out brilliant’ – Jake Humphrey, BT Sport

– ‘I remember the 1st game he did as a pundit for the BBC. He arrived early, said ‘hello’ to everyone and then spent ages in the truck going through analysis with the production team. Eager to learn, happy to help, polite, humble and a natural from minute one. Genuinely nice bloke. The only thing I don’t like about him is that he doesn’t play golf’ – Dan Walker, BBC

– ‘I love Frank, met him a long time ago and he was lovely; down to earth, kind and generous.’

– ‘Lamps is just a straight up gentlemen. Humility, humbleness & grace’

– ‘Couldn’t think of a useful comment other than to say I love Frank Lampard more than Daniel Storey loves Lukaku. That is a LOT.’

-‘A reassuring slice of Estuary English punditry in amongst the bewildering number of Manc/Scouse/Scots-ness. Surely a seat within the FA board beckons.’

– ‘The only football pundit on British television who could appear on Just A Minute.’

– ‘He’s articulate, and most importantly considered and patient – his insights and analysis are not driven by the need to shout a little louder than his colleagues as Carragher or Redknapp tend to do. He, Scholes and Ferdinand are similar in that regard and were excellent.’

– ‘I thought the BT Sport advert he did with Jake Humphrey showed a level of self-awareness and a willingness to laugh at himself that bode really well for what was to come.’

– ‘He is a great pundit, clear, honest and interesting he never just states the blooming obvious. I see and learn things from what he says. In previous generations he would have been a manager.’

– ‘If the rest of the England team were half as smart we would have won at least one European and World cup. No doubt.’

– ‘When you get him, Rio and Gerrard together in the one studio they bring the best out of each other.’

– ‘One of the few pundits I rarely disagree with, well dressed, humble, honest – the most un-Chelsea Chelsea man of the last 20 years!’

– ‘My friends and I were in the team hotel when Chelsea played Real Betis in 2005.We had a lovely chat and when I phoned my mother,who wasn’t well at the time,Frank spoke to her.She was really really touched that he took the trouble.’

– ‘He also spoke about how it was difficult to get back into the right frame of mind after being thumped, and that a drop in motivation often followed a trophy win. Things we all expect but few pundits actually say out loud.’

– ‘We all know Lampard the footballer. My experience is more personal. For my 18th, a mutual friend asked him for an autograph. Lampard went the extra mile – he wrote me a handwritten birthday message on a framed photo of him & Deco. Remains one of my prized possessions.’

– ‘Love seeing lamps on BT. Confident, calm, and knows what he’s talking about. Also helps that he stays impartial even when talking about Chelsea with players he knows well!’

– ‘Prepares well, thinks about his job, works hard, produces good results, maximises his talent. As a player. And as a pundit.’

– ‘Measured, clearly intelligent and thoughtful, pretty much an anti-PFM….also seems pretty obvious how much homework he’s doing.’

– ‘He is now one of my favourite pundits. Well spoken, considered and honest about his career, what it involved and required. His take on the failures of England during the ‘Golden Generation’ was especially good. Seems like a good bloke.

– ‘I think he’s excellent but held back by the format on BT where he’s diluted by the ‘3 pundit’ style they have. 1 good ‘un is plenty.’

– ‘I think he is an excellent pundit but maybe the biggest compliment is to say that he is wasted in a TV studio – definite management material.’

– ‘Doesn’t surprise me that he’s transferred so well to punditry, as he was a Lineker-type player i.e. not supremely gifted, but intelligent enough to absolutely maximise his ability.

– ‘He’s already one of the very best. Intelligent, considered and seems very down-to-earth – what’s not to like. And more than has the medals to back up his thoughts. Refreshingly calm too compared to some pundits who seem to just rant and rave.’

 

Future Days
Still only 39, there was paper talk of him becoming Oxford United manager last month. Typically, he doesn’t seem to have any sense of entitlement that some high profile ex-players find so easy to own. He is taking coaching badges and working with the Chelsea academy

“There are plenty of different routes to try and become a top manager and I am working now to get towards that,” he said. “You can’t just step out of playing and think you can become a manager – you have to practice. Thankfully Chelsea and the academy are helping me get my hours in and I am watching training at certain Premier League clubs and studying as much as I can so down the line, I hope so (to become a manager).”

That is typically level-headed of him and the sort of thing that any person might say who wanted to change careers. The fact it is so rare to hear from the lips of an ex-international England man is testament to the weird self-regarding world that is modern day football.

It seems likely that if he ever does decide to go into management, he won’t be short of suitors and he’d probably be really good at it. When that day comes he will be a great loss to the pundit’s chair but I’m sure we will be following the career of one of English football’s most interesting men, one way or another, for many decades to come. And what a pleasure that will be.

John Nicholson

 

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