The contents of Upton Park may have all been sold off following West Ham’s move to Stratford in the summer, but unquestionably the club’s most priceless assets are the memories made at the old ground – and the people who made them. And in that sense, there are few people who are quite as valuable to Irons fans as Frank Lampard. England may only have seen fi t to give him two caps, but his contribution in making more than 600 appearances for West Ham over the course of an 18-year career means the two-time FA Cup winner is unquestionably one of the club’s greatest servants, and someone whose opinions on it matter.
Blowing Bubbles was lucky enough to hear them in an exclusive interview – and although the club may have now moved from the area in which Lampard was born, and the ground in which he played, he says local roots have always been key to West Ham’s success, and must remain so. And no-one embodies that more in Lampard’s eyes than captain Mark Noble. ‘He’s a great example to any youngsters watching,’ he said. ‘He’s a local lad, like I was – I caught the bus to the ground to make my debut – and having people like that in the team really matters. I look at him and I can see myself. I was part of that same line that he represents, people who grew up locally wanting to play for the club. Th ere was a lot of us in my day, and I hope that the move to Stratford doesn’t mean the line gets broken.
‘Football is so cosmopolitan now, so what Mark has done is a great and very rare feat. He’s a local lad made good by being incredibly single-minded, focusing on what he always wanted to do, and achieving it. I think he’ll make a great manager one day because he has respect for people and how things should be done.
‘I’ve always loved the way he plays – he’s a throwback to how things were in my day. We may not have been the best players, but we knew what we were capable of, and how to get the best out of ourselves. I see that in him too. When Bobby Moore was a youngster, they said things like he was too slow, and he couldn’t head, but he overcame that by having a great footballing brain. I see that in Mark too.’ Comparisons with Moore and West Ham’s other greats are not to be made lightly, but if anyone is in a position to make such observations, it is Lampard. Aft er all, his time at the club stretched from one of its peaks to another, via glory years of his own. His West Ham debut
was in November 1967, in a side featuring the World Cup-winning trio of Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, and having started in one of the club’s finest ever eras, he played a key role in the 1975 and 1980 FA Cup wins – famously scoring the winning goal against Everton in the 1980 semi-final replay, and celebrating by dancing round the corner flag – before finally giving up his number three shirt at the end of the 1984-85 season, just before the club’s most successful league season ever. Not only was Lampard integral to some of the greatest successes the club has ever enjoyed, but he was in the best position to observe its most legendary player at extremely close quarters.
‘I made my debut at right-back, out of position, and was then dropped for a few games before being recalled at left-back, my natural place, and from that point I kept my place in the team – and alongside Bobby,’ he explained. ‘Playing in the same team as him, and just being around him generally, was an absolute education. When I broke into the team, we had those three huge stars in it, but there was no hierarchy – we were there on merit, and we were treated as such. I definitely think it helped that there were so many local lads in the team, because we all had the same mentality, background and motivation.’ Playing alongside the World Cup-winning captain could easily have been an overwhelming experience for the young left-back, but Moore did nothing to underline his seniority – because he did not need to, and because that was not his style.
‘Bobby always led by example,’ said Lampard. ‘He was never someone who’d give you verbals, that wasn’t his way – if you did something wrong, he’d just give you a look, and you knew it meant ‘you don’t do that sort of thing’, and you made sure you never did it again. You’d turn away and feel bad about yourself – you’d upset Bobby Moore, you couldn’t do that!’.
Not only were Lampard and Moore an effective double act on the pitch, but for eight years they were master and apprentice off it too, as room-mates for away games. ‘Bobby was a perfectionist on and off the field,’ said Lampard. ‘I roomed with him for seven or eight years, and he taught me all the best habits of being a professional footballer – that’s one of the reasons why after all those years playing for West Ham, I didn’t quit completely, I had one more season at Southend, because he was there. ‘Mind you, as anyone who knew him well tell you, as well as being a consummate pro, he also
enjoyed the social side of thing as well, so I learnt plenty about that side of life from him too! He really took me under his wing for all those years – it was wonderful just to be around him, and to learn so much about so many things.’ The ground where Moore and Lampard helped write some of the greatest chapters of West Ham’s history is now history, of course, and the club has moved on to pastures new and a whole new era at Stratford. And despite the upheaval of the move, the man whose career took in so many of the greatest moments in West Ham’s history, and saw him play with so many of its finest players, says the formula is simple.
Stay in touch with your roots – as personified by captain Noble – and stick to doing what you know you’re good at. ‘The key to the move working is results, nothing more complicated than that,” he explained. ‘Once you get winning matches, everything else will follow – then the crowd will be behind you, and the atmosphere at the new ground will be amazing. That’s how last season started, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t do the same again.’ No need for screaming or shouting, just be level headed and concentrate on doing the best you can. Bobby would surely approve. BBM