By Alex Netherton and Andi Thomas
Pity Frank Lampard. Poor Frank Lampard. Poor Frank Lampard might not be allowed to play for Chelsea for much longer, and he really, really wants to. We are all meant to be sad. Boo hoo.
In Britain, the justification that, ‘I really want this so much,’ has become the accepted path onto reality TV shows. It’s the de facto bargaining chip of the idiot. You don’t get an X Factor winner who hasn’t said, ‘You don’t understand how much I want this.’ You don’t get a football match analysed in England without some insight-deficient man in too-tight trousers saying, ‘They just wanted it more than the other team, Jeff.’ In Britain, success does not, apparently, come down to charisma, talent, skill, tactics, singing ability, being able to dance (we’re confused as to whether we’re meant to be writing about football or pop music at this stage, but we’ve committed to this paragraph and we’re not prepared to rewrite it) and hard work. No, success comes down to how much you want it. And, as we are told again and again, Frank Lampard really wants to stay at Chelsea, and we’re supposed to care and be convinced of his worth as a result. What hot jazz!
Let’s enjoy the demise of Frank Lampard. A man who appears, by dint of not being John Terry, not being hated quite as much as he should. Come, come. This is a time of the year when we should all pull together. All pull together and mock Frank Lampard. There are plenty of reasons to hate Frank Lampard. It’s revision time.
One, he was deeply unpleasant to West Ham fans, to the extent that they have never forgiven him. If you consider we’re constantly told he’s the model professional, just look at his actions, not others’ words. At West Ham, with his dad at manager, he was guaranteed a starting spot when his form demanded he be replaced. When he left the club, he criticised West Ham, which rings of class and professionalism. Especially as it was clearly because they got rid of his dad, rather than out of any justified complaint. He acted like such an entitled, smacked arse, that West Ham fans continue to chant very rude things about him more than a decade after he left. Every other player of that generation – Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe – are regarded with varying degrees of warmth. They didn’t have a petty slanging match with the club. Frank Lampard has though.
Two, in the year after he left, he abused American tourists after the September 11 attacks. We’ve all made terrible mistakes – affairs, lies, talking with our mouth open, slurping tea – but few of us have openly mocked the dead after the most lethal terrorist attack in America. Frank Lampard has though.
Three, In 2007 he confirmed he was a supporter of the Tory party. He complained that his relatives in construction found it hard to find work because of the number of immigrants willing to do the same work, and then employed Polish builders when he needed work done. We’ve all made mistakes – affairs, lies, talking with our mouth open, slurping tea – but few of us have been so publicly and risibly hypocritical. Frank Lampard has though.
He was a great player, still capable of great moments, and probably suffered by being English when he has the aptitude and talent to have been more successful in more intelligent teams, and the consistency of his performance standard has been utterly remarkable. But he’s 34 now. He’s slow, he’s not Paul Scholes. Whatever his IQ tests say, it’s the ginger who’s the genius. He doesn’t have the cranial capacity to adapt and survive. There are more effective Chelsea midfielders in any role he might want to play. Ramires has more guile and stamina. David Luiz has more dynamism. Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are more incisive. If Oscar is ever let out to play again, he’ll be a better goalscorer than Lampard. He’s close to obsolete, and he’s on absurd wages that can no longer be justified.
Frank Lampard wants to stay at Chelsea. Just because he wants it, doesn’t mean he should get it. Just because his cousin in the media, Jamie Redknapp, says he’s still great, it doesn’t make it true. He’s not. Chelsea are right to get rid of him either this winter or next summer. It’s fair to say that supporters of right wing parties are psychopaths, and it’s fair to say they deserve absolutely no sympathy when they are put to the sword with the same callousness with which they treat the rest of the world. Boo hoo, Frank. Boo. Hoo.
While we’re on the subject of England internationals with ongoing contract negotiations, Theo Walcott scored three goals for Arsenal against Newcastle. More importantly, there were moments – that finish, straight out of the Thierry Henry playbook; that third goal, all wriggled improvisation – when he actually looked like the player he was supposed to become, all those years ago, before he instead became the living embodiment of a club that places too high a premium on potential over production. Cue clamour.
But look, Arsène – we know you read this – here is your chance to make a statement. To say ‘look, it’s not good enough to have some of the raw talent and turn in the occasional performance’. To say ‘look, I’m not just about indulging players that are manifestly not good enough in the hope of being proved right eventually’. To say ‘look, things have been far too comfortable around here for too long, and I can be an eagle-faced bastard when I want to’. Turn him out into the street with just a knotted-handkerchief-on-a-stick, and slam the door when he turns to say goodbye. It’ll be better for both of you in the long run. And yes, you can borrow a tissue. There there.
While we’re on the subject of contract negotiations, what kind of a world is it where contract negotiations are a subject for discussion. It’s New Year’s Eve. Weep into your warm champagne for the state of it all.
Alex and Andi both feature in the Surreal Football Magazine, available in all formats including hard copy. You can order a copy at www.surrealfootballmagazine.co.uk. It rivals, and ultimately beats, Shakespeare in terms of quality.