There is one subject dominating Chelsea participation in the internationals this week and columnist and former Chelsea star Pat Nevin has long been an admirer of England’s headline maker. He sees similarities too with someone else on the sports pages today…
So it is no great secret that I will be more interested in what is happening in Skopje and what is going on in Kiev tonight, but even if Scotland will take most of my personal attention there is no way to ignore the importance of what is going on in the Ukraine. For England it is a huge tie but for Frank Lampard it is monumental.
Tonight our Frank will become an England centurion, which is pretty astonishing when you take a number of things into account. First of all he plays in central midfield, the engine room where the work is hardest, sweatiest and arguably most dangerous. Injuries commonly afflict these guys – have a look at Jack Wilshere’s record so far – yet Frank has managed to turn out for his country time and time again to great effect.
It is also worth underlining that he has reached this landmark in a time when England had its golden generation. With the likes of Scholes, Gerrard and Beckham among many others all fancying playing in that role, he has still managed to make it to 100 not out.
He has also been able to play all these years; his first cap was in 1999, through the ups and downs of what has been an incredibly turbulent time for the English national side. There have been many moments when it must have felt like a pain, though he would never admit it, due to the abuse the team received and even some of the comments aimed at him personally in the press, and to be brutally honest, from the stands as well at times.
Through it all however he has behaved impeccably when representing his country, just as he does when he represents his beloved Chelsea. How many times must he have bitten his lip and then said exactly the right thing in public, just when everyone might expect an angry petulant rant?But it never comes; he is always above it, being the role model even when he has a right to do get a bit angry.
When some England fans had a dig, did he mention the goals for his country now standing at 29? No he didn’t. He rose above it. Actually we all know it should be 30 goals, but of course FIFA had their collective heads buried deep in the sand until very recently.
This of course is to say nothing of his assists and his general play for the team. At 35 he is still an integral part of the England set up and who is to say that he doesn’t add more to the 100 over the coming months/years.
Oddly I actually thought about Frank last night when I was watching the US Open tennis final at Flushing Meadow. Rafa Nadal beat Djokovic in four and although I like the Serb and of course am a fanatical follower of Andy Murray, I do feel that Rafa is possibly my favourite sportsman of any type currently playing. The reasons are varied. I love his work rate. I love the way he has come back time and again from been written off as past it, in his case due to injury. I obviously greatly admire his ability on court but on top of all this, it is that he is the consummate sportsman.
There is honour, there is honesty and above all there is a level of sporting behaviour and behaviour off court that is precisely how I want to see these greats behave. He is a sportsman but also sporting, as quick to applaud an opponent’s great show as celebrate his own. Afterwards, even if he is in excruciating pain due to severe injury he never uses it as an excuse, but instead congratulates his adversary’s better play.
It is high praise but I think Frank Lampard is as close as you get to Rafa in a football shirt. He doesn’t dive, he doesn’t feign injury and he is a truly great player and ambassador for his club, his nation and his sport. Happy 100th Lamps and many happy returns to Wembley…unless you are playing against Scotland of course…I mean I have limits to my sporting morality!
Last week’s quiz asked how many goals would be scored on international duty by Chelsea players before today. Well the answer was only one, much to my surprise. It was from Ramires for Brazil, well done him. The goal by Victor Moses didn’t count as he is out on loan. The winner is Taiwo Adedipe, an ardent Chelsea fan currently in the USA.
This week to have a chance of winning a Season Review DVD signed by one of the players, could you tell me who Frank Lampard didn’t score against when he hit the bar for England, even though it crossed the line? Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org