How ‘Traitor’ Frank Lampard Has Given Chelsea Fans the Blues
There was an isolated placard in the stands at Stamford Bridge on Saturday that struck a harsh cord amid the warm, fuzzy cheers for the returning Frank Lampard in a lighter hue of blue.
It read simply:
“LAMPARD YOU ARE NOT A LEGEND
ANYMORE YOU ARE A TRAITOR
TO CHELSEA FC AND CHELSEA FANS"
From some of the reaction afterwards it sounded like the fan holding the sign was the traitor and not Chelsea’s highest ever scoring player who was at that very moment playing for the club’s greatest rival in a concerted effort to score the goal that could possibly rob them of the Premier League title.
He’s already lost Chelsea two points by scoring an equalizer for Manchester City at home when they squared off in an equally important game earlier in the season. His seven goals so far this season have undoubtedly won other matches for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
And there he was again, trying his level best to ghost into the box ahead of his old pals John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic to try and steal a win from under their noses.
Don’t be fooled by the applause for Lampard when he came on with ten minutes to go, nor with those “Super Frank” scarves and banners. There is a very real sense of betrayal among the Bridge faithful – and, indeed, among his old teammates and former manager Jose Mourhino.
You don’t think so? Then why wasn’t there any kind of presentation to Lampard on his first return to his old stamping ground on Saturday as there was for other old boys like Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack?
There is a sense of hypocrisy here, too. Lampard can’t have it both ways. He can’t say he won’t celebrate a goal because he cares too much about the club where he spent so long while at the same time trying to stick a knife through its heart.
He may not admit it, but this is about more than that. It’s about a 36-year-old superstar with a score to settle because he wasn’t offered a contract at the end of last season.
In trying to prove Chelsea made a mistake he is prepared to turn his back on the fans that supported him for years.
There is a reason David Beckham played his football abroad when his Manchester United days were over. He would have loved to play in the Premier League once more; his competitive nature virtually demanded it and he certainly had something left to prove to his old mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, after their falling out. But he understood what it meant to the Old Trafford faithful. He certainly had offers and was tempted by Arsenal and Tottenham among other clubs, but at the end of the day he could never imagine playing against United. He could play for the LA Galaxy, for AC Milan and PSG and still come “home” to Manchester to visit with nobody questioning his loyalties.
Steven Gerrard is taking a similar route for similar reasons. Clearly, the money is good and the Los Angeles weather beats Liverpool, but a major factor is that he doesn’t want to play against his boyhood club.
Jamie Carragher, the ultimate one-club player, now working as a TV pundit, thinks that foreign players like Robin Van Persie and Fernando Torres are immune to conflicting feelings about switching to rival clubs. It’s certainly true that “home” is likely to be somewhere else anyway so perhaps the loyalty doesn’t run so deep.
Lampard bristles at any questioning of his motives. He’s a professional player “just doing his job.”
“We’re grown men,” he says. “I think that as you get older you respect that. You understand that as a professional, it’s your job and you move on.” That’s all true, but don’t expect the fans to love you for it. Football teams are bigger than individuals and woe betide the player who disrespect the fans.
Lampard surely doesn’t need the extra cash. He could have gone to New York, played his heart out in the MLS and West London would have welcomed him back with open arms.
If he really wanted to stay in the EPL for a last hurrah, he could even have gone back to his old team, West Ham United, where his father played for years with distinction. The Hammers are no threat to Chelsea.
Now his legacy is tainted. The fans that cheered him and paid his wages for 13 years are regarding him with a deepening suspicion that could turn into outright hostility if his goals end up winning Manchester City the title.
So perhaps the guy with the placard had a good point.