Should Frank Lampard appear in today’s fourth-round tie at Stamford Bridge, he will move ahead of Peter Bonetti to become the second highest FA Cup appearance maker in Chelsea history.
Already the club’s all-time leading scorer in the competition with 26 goals, Lampard’s next game in it will be his 58th, a total only surpassed by Ron Harris’s 64. To beat Bonetti or Harris in any appearance list takes some doing which indicates just how well Chelsea have performed in the FA Cup since the Lampard joined in 2001, a point he acknowledges.
‘Peter Bonetti and Ron Harris obviously dominate the appearances across the board,’ he says, ‘but in the FA Cup I have been lucky enough when I have been at the club to go on a lot of good runs, particularly in recent years and that obviously accumulates the games, and it is a competition I have always enjoyed.’
Chelsea reached the final in Lampard’s first season, losing to Arsenal in Cardiff, but he more than made up for that with wins at Wembley in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012. He admits he wouldn’t have believed he would play in five finals at the time of his move from West Ham.
‘It was always a competition I grew up wanting to win badly, having watched it as a kid, and I am very proud of those medals.
‘Because I have had success in it, and some really good days including semi-finals, when you look at your career the big FA Cup games always really stand out. The crowd always seem to be lively, there are more away fans and that adds to it. We have always taken it really seriously as you always should do, and I have enjoyed it.’
On the subject of showing the world’s oldest football competition respect, with a discussion on that raised yet again nationally at the time of the third round, Lampard believes reports of its decline may have been greatly exaggerated.
‘The FA Cup does matter,’ says the 35-year-old. ‘I never understand teams who rotate a lot in the FA Cup because whether you are in the top position in the league or fighting against relegation, it doesn’t help when you get knocked out of a competition as big as the FA Cup. It always helps when you go on a run and we certainly take it seriously.
‘It is very prestigious and an amazing day out in the semi-finals and the finals. I just don’t get why people wouldn’t take it seriously but I think a lot of people do. I think it is still held in high regard. It is just one of those silly things in the modern day, whenever someone rests a couple of players we have a big debate about how important the FA Cup is, but to people who really know their football it is always important.’
Lampard believes Wigan’s Wembley win last season helped the FA Cup maintain its lustre, showing that smaller clubs can still triumph in an era when big clubs with big squads have dominated, as has the return this season to a final scheduled on its own weekend after the conclusion of the Premier League.
Looking back on his own glittering history across the 57 games so far, his winning goal in the 2009 final against Everton is naturally a highlight and he also cites the 2012 semi-final when Tottenham were thumped 5-1, the fourth goal an extraordinary Lampard free-kick.
‘The whole performance that day was good. We were under pressure that year and Tottenham really fancied themselves, but we played a brilliant game at Wembley and dominated them.’
His first Chelsea FA Cup game was a brief substitute appearance in a third round draw at Norwich but he has plenty of reasons to recall his first start – the replay. It was the evening of Gianfranco Zola’s famous flying backheel goal, as well as the first of Lampard’s 26 FA Cup strikes. The game ended 4-0.
‘I do remember that game, obviously for Franco’s goal particularly but it was also one of my early Chelsea goals, albeit from a rebound. It was a pretty good performance by us but Franco took the headlines.
‘There was also a Mario Stanic header that just brushed my studs on the way in. The goal was taken away from me and given to him, but I’ll let that go now!’ Lampard smiles.
– You can listen to the game live wherever you may be on Chelsea TV.