Looking back on Frank Lampard’s career, it’s easy to argue that he could have gone on to achieve great things at West Ham and there’s a lot that the club can be grateful to him for.
But following his decision to hang up his boots last month, we’re left instead to reminisce about how much bitterness there is between West Ham and ‘Fat Frank’. Before I can be accused of being unpleasant, I’d like to say that I do indeed wish Frank well in his future ventures. Retirement for a footballer can be a hard pill to swallow and I hope he’s able to embark on a new successful pathway, whether it’s in coaching, media or elsewhere.
I cannot, however, write a gushing review of memories of the man who started his professional career at West Ham as a teenager. It’s fair to say that a small portion of West Ham fans had never taken to liking Lampard, even in his early days in claret and blue. Some argued that he was only there because of his family history.
Unfortunately, the minority seemed to shout the loudest for Frank, and these are the few fans that he chose to remember on his departure and in the following years.
Th e proper football fans amongst us will agree that no player should be subject to verbal abuse from their own fans, so it’s really disappointing that the Romford-born player’s overriding memory of Upton Park is being pelted with foul words following a leg break back in ’97. It seems to this day he can’t let it go, and hit us where it hurts by declaring that he doesn’t even care about West Ham results any more. Furthermore, he likes when they lose. Right. Th is is blood-boiling stuff to any fan of a club who gave someone their opportunity to go on to be hugely successful.
I’d like to think Lampard wouldn’t have been half the player he was without West Ham, which had one of the best, and most famous, academies in England. His benefi ts from that were countless. I also appreciate the awkwardness that was presented to Lampard when Frank Snr and Harry Redknapp were let go from their posts. But as in any family-run business, there has to be separation between business and personal life.
It’s clear that the whole family was upset, but to follow it up and claim that his ambition was always bigger than West Ham is, well, big-headed to say the least. Perhaps it’s the unprofessionalism of such jibes that irks me. Nowadays, we expect players to take negative comments and experiences on the chin and we don’t expect them to bite back.
I’m not saying that’s right, but there’s a way to handle yourself as a footballer. That’s why, to be honest, I got a sense of satisfaction when West Ham’s various social media accounts were reported to have ignored the day that their former star announced his retirement. All of Lampard’s previous clubs tipped their hats to him, but the Hammers decided not to wax lyrical about his career, which it so helpfully kick started. And I bet deep down, that really hurt him.
That might not be the saga over though with Bilic wading in and suggesting that the 29-yearold would be welcomed back to east London in a coaching role, should he desire. Not on our watch, Slaven. There have been times this season where West Ham players haven’t been good enough, but to have to watch Frank discuss on TV, namely following the FA Cup exit to Man City, how poor a performance has been just compounds the misery.
Do I want him to smugly coach anyone in our squad? No, not really. I feel like Frank Lampard is the only former Hammer who I just struggle to say anything positive about. There are other former players who’ve let us down but haven’t necessarily gone on to make such a big deal about it after the event.
I’m sure he’s a nice man, I can’t comment on his personality, but I still feel let down by him like so many West Ham fans do. For that reason, his retirement makes no difference to how I feel about his career.
Despite amassing over 180 appearances in claret and blue, there’s no part of me that makes me proud to have had him as a player. Frank Lampard might have thanked West Ham as a club in his retirement announcement, but that struck me as a necessity and not the heartfelt thanks that it really should have been. It’d take an awfully big bunch of flowers to win me over and invite you back to the East End, Frank.