Frank Lampard, normally the kind of serious and professionally-focused character more concerned with leading by example than with bawling out instructions to his team-mates, is exercising his vocal chords this week as he prepares to step into John Terry’s shoes and captain Chelsea in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Terry, of course, is suspended for the match in Germany after being sent off in the semi-final in Barcelona and Chelsea know they will miss not only his defensive power but also his vocal power in a match they must face without four key players — and against a team playing in their home stadium.
But the Stamford Bridge club are lucky because their team is not short on leaders. Didier Drogba does it in his own way up front, Petr Cech has captained from his position in goal in the past; and Lampard, who for years has formed a wonderfully-balanced partnership with Terry in the Chelsea hierarchy, is the most natural replacement of all – as he proved in the Nou Camp.
“How will I captain the side? As I tried to do in Barcelona,” he said.
“I was probably more vocal than I’ve ever been in Barcelona because it was such a ‘backs to the wall’ and ‘trying to direct people around’ situation. This time I’ll try and be vocal again. But I’ll try and lead by example as well.
“It’s going to be possibly my proudest moment if I lead the team out in Munich. I know the players — I’ve been here long enough — I feel the pride of it and you take on the responsibility of trying to lead. But we have got leaders throughout the team and the occasion will bring out the big boys to lead the team as we go along too.”
Lampard’s powers of communication may well be tested because with Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles all missing and both David Luiz and Gary Cahill only recently returned form injuries which must have left them below 100% fitness, the organisational issues are daunting.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” admitted the England midfielder, included in his country’s Euro 2012 squad this week. “Bayern have great players up front. I’ve watched them a few times. [Mario] Gomez’s goal record is amazing and his all round game and his finishing is fantastic. And the wingers we all know about anyway.
“A lot of teams losing their centre-halves would not be so confident but I’m pretty confident in [Cahill and David Luiz]. And then there’s Ashley Cole — say no more, you know what you get from him.
“And whoever we play at right-back, Jose Bosingwa or Paulo Ferreira. We have to be on our game to stop them but I have confidence in the players to do it.”
In a remarkable career in west London — he arrived from West Ham in 2001 and has won nine major trophies — Lampard has achieved almost all his dreams; but he admits beating Bayern in Munich, given the number of players missing and given the talent in the home team, would be the greatest achievement of all.
“For Chelsea it would be. It would be the greatest achievement for sure,” he said. “It would be a huge achievement. But I think every step so far has been a huge achievement — the Barcelona game and the turn-around from Napoli. It would certainly be Chelsea’s best ever feat.
“Everyone knows it’s the one [medal] I’m missing, that we’re all missing. I’ve said before, even if we don’t win it, I’d have no regrets looking back. I’m very pleased and proud of the career I’ve had here. I’ve been very lucky to be at a great club and win a lot of things. But in terms of the full set on the table, it would be the crowning glory; you can’t hide away from that.”
Lampard has certainly come close before; in 2008 he scored in the final against Manchester United in Moscow before losing on penalties and was named Uefa Club Midfielder of the Year. But the trophy the club so desires has eluded everyone at Stamford Bridge.
“I think it’s time for us to do it,” said Lampard.
Chelsea may well lack defensive quality in Munich thanks to Terry’s stupidity in Barcelona; but they certainly won’t lack leadership.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved