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Frank Lampard: The Biography by Douglas Thompson

Release date: 20th September, 2005
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
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If there has been a more improved footballer in Europe than Frank Lampard over the past two seasons, then this columnist hasn't yet come across him. Bought for £11 million from West Ham in June 2001, a price which, at the time, caused more than a few eyebrows to be raised, Lampard has since developed into the complete midfielder, both at club and at international level. How he must thank his lucky stars that he opted for Stamford Bridge, by no means a foregone conclusion as Leeds United's then chairman Peter Risdale furiously competed for his signature four years ago. His value now? Well, if Didier Drogba is worth £24 million÷

In one sense, Lampard was burdened with a father who had also been famous footballer, a tough-tackling, no-nonsense full back at West Ham. On the other, he has been fortunate to have been guided by his father as he contrived to made his own way to the top, but there have been several other major influences too, from Harry Redknapp and Claudio Ranieri, to the 'special one' himself, Jose Mourinho.

Yet Douglas Thompson's biography, the first, no doubt of many we can expect over the next few years, is at pains to stress that life has not been a bed of roses for young Frank ever since he joined West Ham as a trainee in 1992. He had to contend, initially at least, with the inevitable cries of nepotism and favouritism, but these envious taunts were ultimately to become important factors which drove him on to play 132 times for the Hammers.

Indeed, included in his footballing apprenticeship was a short spell on loan at Swansea as a raw 17 year-old where he played a handful of first team matches and was granted few favours by any number of flint-edged opposition defenders. Although toughened up by his brief spell in the lower league, Lampard returned to Upton Park to find himself on the subs bench while his great pal Rio Ferdinand had broken into the senior XI and was attracting wave upon wave of plaudits. Reading between the lines, you can almost sense Frank making a memo to himself as he watched Ferdinand from the sidelines: drive harder, run faster÷

This will-to-win attitude not only makes him a Chelsea favourite, but also draws admiring applause from opposing fans. It was absolutely crucial in helping Chelsea claim their first title in fifty years last season as 'Lamps', together with John Terry, established themselves at the relentless, never-say-die heart of Mourinho's champions. Yet Lampard was a Claudio Ranieri signing (his first English player, in fact), although there was little chance he would join the exodus of players which followed the arrival of the Portuguese at Stamford Bridge.

Both managers appreciate that in Lampard they have the finished article, a player who now holds the record for the greatest number of consecutive games played by an outfield player in the Premiership. Given the pace at which the game is played, this is a marvellous testament to Lampard's fitness and attitude.

Chelsea's undefeated start to the new campaign suggests they want to win the title in double-quick time before concentrating upon winning the Champions League. It's a double that is far from beyond them. Provided Lampard can stay fit, they certainly have a chance because as this book shows, one thing 'Lamps' is not about to suffer is a loss of drive.

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