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Frank Lampard: Captain, Leader, Legend

Chelsea fans: isn’t this what a true leader looks like? Isn’t this the man you’d really like leading your team? Isn’t this a role model, someone to make you proud of your club?
On Sunday, Frank Lampard scored his 200th goal for Chelsea, bringing him to within two of the all-time record.
The number of goals isn’t particularly important, though it is an astonishing tally for a central midfielder.
As his detractors point out, he scores a lot of penalties - 39 in the Premier League alone for Chelsea (though that never seems important when talking about Alan Shearer, Ruud van Nistelrooy or other great goalscorers).
What the tally does show is Lampard’s sheer consistency. This is his 10th consecutive season with 10 or more Premier League goals. Do you know how many other players have done that? None.
Just for the sake of comparison, do you know how many times Steven Gerrard has hit double figures in league goals? Three times. Paul Scholes? Twice.
That doesn’t automatically make Lampard a better player, but it does indicate he has maintained an exceptional performance level in a way that the other two have not.
In a decade of turbulent upheaval (good and bad) for Chelsea, he more than anyone has been the constant; the steadying hand, the man to which the team turned in times of adversity.
Of course Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and other players have made defining contributions. But Lampard is the rock on which Chelsea’s success has been built. He is Chelsea’s true captain. Their totem.
Now, Early Doors has got this far without mentioning John Terry’s name.
That’s because Lampard doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed by the man who - inexplicably, has captained Chelsea and England for the bulk of their careers.
Clearly Terry has something about him - he has persuaded enough managers to make him captain to suggest he is somewhat armband-worthy.
But Early Doors just doesn’t see it. ‘Natural leader’ is a term often used to describe Terry - but what does that really mean?
The term tends to emerge from a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon view of leadership that values shouting and pointing a lot to fostering cooperation and mutual respect with your colleagues. It also defines bravery as putting your head in the way of a goalbound shot - as though that isn’t every player’s job.
As an aside, Luis Suarez’s infamous handball was braver than anything Terry has done. He knew it was a red card, he knew the scorn that would come his way, but he did the only thing he could to keep his team in the World Cup. Now that’s self-sacrifice.
Back to Terry, though - if you want to command the respect of your team-mates, you could probably stay away from their other halves.
If you want to be seen as an ambassador for your club and the game, you might refrain from using the words “f***ing black c***” under any circumstances whatsoever.
And you can realise that having a strong personality doesn’t preclude self-awareness or a sense of when to take a step back.
Take Roy Keane’s words in his autobiography after he missed Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League triumph:
“No matter how many people tell me I deserve that Champions League medal, I know I don’t. In fact, you could argue my indiscipline came very close to costing us the treble.”
Terry’s full-kit jubilation after sitting out last season’s Champions League final became such an internet staple he can currently be found somewhere in cyberspace celebrating the election of Pope Francis, and doing a joyful knee slide to mark St Patrick’s Day.
Lampard might not be the alpha male in the Chelsea squad, but he is their leader in every meaningful sense.
He plays more games than Terry, makes more telling contributions than Terry, holds his nerve better than Terry.
In the 2008 Champions League final, Lampard scored in normal time and again in the penalty shootout. Terry ‘had the guts’ to take the potential winning kick - but not to score or even get it on target.
In the 2012 Champions League, Lampard played superbly in adversity and again scored in the shootout. Terry watched, a victim of his own foolishness in the semi-final.
By the time he is done at Stamford Bridge - whether this summer or next - Frank Lampard will be remembered as the greatest goalscorer in Chelsea history.
In another, fairer universe, he would also be remembered as their greatest captain.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He's not that sort of boy.” Roberto Martinez reaches for the bumper book of football cliches as he defends Callum McManaman for his appalling tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara.
FOREIGN VIEW: AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis conceded the "stupidity" of his actions after he was given a life ban from all national teams by the Greek football federation on Sunday for making a Nazi salute to fans during a match.
The 20-year-old, a former captain of Greece's Under-19 team, made the gesture in celebrating his winning goal in a 2-1 Super League victory over lowly Veria on Saturday.
Katidis apologised and asked to be dropped from AEK's first team.
"I would like to confess that I am totally unacceptable and I feel terrible for those I upset with the stupidity of my act," Katidis said in a statement.
"I made the mistake so I will be the one to pay for it, AEK is not responsible. So that is why I have decided to put myself out of the team because I have now realised how much I have offended the history of the club.”
COMING UP: Slim, slim pickings today as international week lumbers clunkily into view. But we'll be looking through the key incidents from the weekend with a raft of Premier League video clips, while Jan Molby will be filing his latest blog.


By Eurosport, 18/03/2013

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