Frank Lampard: My footballing inspiration

After 21 years in the game, the Premier League’s best midfielder has retired. Frank Lampard, Chelsea legend, posted on Instagram on February 2 that he would be turning down any further contract offers and he would be retiring from football.

After 21 incredible years, I have decided that now is the right time to finish my career as a professional footballer. Whilst I have received a number of exciting offers to continue playing at home and abroad, at 38 I feel now is the time to begin the next chapter in my life. I’m immensely proud of the trophies I’ve won, of representing my country over 100 times and of scoring more than 300 career goals. I have many people to thank. I thank my parents for instilling in me the values of hard work, dedication and professionalism, values which I have carried with me in everything that I do. I am forever grateful for the support of my family, my wife Christine and my two daughters Luna and Isla. What you have given me off the pitch has always been my strength on it. I love you all very much. Also, my friends and my own team that have always been there for me. I would like to thank the amazing team-mates, coaches, managers and backroom staff that I was privileged to work with. I’d also like to pay tribute to the clubs that I have represented. Firstly, West Ham United who gave me my debut in 1996. Thanks to the people there that believed in me at that young age. More recently Manchester City and NYCFC. I greatly enjoyed my last playing years at these two clubs and really appreciate the support I received from City Football Group and both clubs’ fans. Of course, the largest part of my heart belongs to Chelsea, a club which has given me so many great memories. I will never forget the opportunity they gave me and the success that we managed to achieve together. It is impossible to give thanks individually to all the people that helped and supported me in my 13 years playing there. All I can say is from the day I signed until now and going forward, I'm eternally grateful for everything and to everyone. Chelsea fans gave myself and my teammates such incredible support. Their passion and hunger drove me on personally to give my best year after year. I couldn't have done it without them. Looking forward, I'm grateful to the FA for the opportunity to study for my coaching qualifications and I look forward to pursuing the off-field opportunities that this decision opens.

A post shared by Frank Lampard (@franklampard) on

Lampard is second on the all-time Premier League assists list, with 102, third in all-time appearances with 603, and fourth all-time in goals scored with 177. He won three Premier League titles, four FA cups, 2 League Cups, the Champions League in 2012 and the Europa league in 2013.

Far more important to me, as well as to many other Chelsea fans, was Lampard’s undying, dedicated loyalty and love to and for Chelsea Football Club. In the 13 years that he played for the Blues, Lampard was an unwavering source of confidence and pride that helped catapult Chelsea to the top of the footballing world.

Personally, I owe my love of football to Chelsea’s #8. I had followed the sport loosely for a few years without picking a favorite team, and in 2012 I watched the Champions League Final. Chelsea were playing Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Bayern’s home arena. With captain John Terry out of the game due to suspension, Lampard donned the armband and led the Blues to face Bayern.

The game was deadlocked at 1 after a late header by Didier Drogba, and the two team went to penalties. Frank Lampard stepped up to take his penalty, and he slammed it home top-shelf. Two rounds later, when Drogba slotted home the winner, the Chelsea squad went running towards the Ivorian and celebrated. Only one didn’t join them. Lampard went sprinting towards the other end of the Arena, sliding in front of the Chelsea supporters section. It was that moment that I knew, Chelsea had my heart.

I followed the Blues through the subsequent Europa League winning campaign and following years, and in 2014 Lampard left to go to the MLS.

He was loaned to Manchester City for the 2014/2015 season to maintain fitness before the MLS season. One of the most unforgettable moments was when he scored for City against Chelsea, late in the match to equalize. It was visible on his face, how bittersweet it was to score against Chelsea, and he held his hands up in a refusal to celebrate.

Lampard’s fortitude of character and magic on the pitch were an inspiration to me and a newfound fan, and to fans of the sport worldwide. Thanks for everything, legend.

Contact writer John Horlander on Twitter @John_Horlander or by email. Also be sure to follow Off my Pitch on Twitter @Offmypitch.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald – Flickr