Why Ryan Giggs 1,000th game makes a mockery of Chelsea
It feels somewhat fitting that with this morning’s news that Chelsea are set to begin tentative negotiations with Frank Lampard over a new contract, that one Ryan Giggs should be set to make his 1000th appearance in a Manchester Untied shirt.
It may seem something of a tentative link given the respective seasons that the pair are currently enjoying. In Lampard, Chelsea have a player whom despite his advancing years, still wields an incredibly important influence over first team affairs. In Giggs, Sir Alex Ferguson possesses one of the most trusted lieutenants he’s ever managed during his 26 years and counting at United and what’s more, the Welshman continues to prove an effective presence within midfield.
But while Lampard is perhaps clearly the more effective on-field performer these days, the pair have one far more distinguishable difference than simply the four-and-a-half years that separate them in age.
Indeed, while Lampard’s current contract has only a few months left to run, Giggs has recently been rewarded with another one-year extension to stay at Old Trafford.
And it’s within that one-year extension, that the Stamford Bridge hierarchy is given the most potent reminder yet the perceived logic being used in the original decision to let Lampard go at the end of the season is horrendously faulty by design.
Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay’s recent admission that discussions with Frank Lampard are currently ‘ongoing’, suggest that there’s now every chance that when the Blues meet with Manchester Untied next season, both the former-West Ham midfielder and Giggs will both at some point meet in the engine room.
Yet while it would be naïve to preempt the fickle finger of fate, should Lampard end up departing West London at the end of the season, what odds on a Ryan Giggs winner during the next clash between both teams?
The irony of a man who turns 40 in November playing a part in a goal against a side that let one of their most prominent midfielders leave on a free as a result of a desire to bring in a younger enforcer, wouldn’t be lost upon supporters. For those wondering, Lampard turns 35 mid-way through June.
Furthermore, if there are still some within the Chelsea boardroom doubting Lampard’s ability to produce the goods as he enters his 35th year, then Manchester United’s veteran midfielder offers yet another poignant reminder that age really is only a number.
At 35, not only was Giggs still continuing to serve as an important component in a Manchester United team that went on to lift a Premier League title during the 2008-09 season, it was also a term that marked his first ever PFA Players’ Player of the Year trophy. Granted, he may not have started every single league game for the Red Devils during that campaign, but he still played a prominent part in attaining success.
Now should Lampard have tailed off in his goalscoring contributions, even then, you’d have a job arguing that Chelsea would have no place for his midfield gifts. His performances during the back-end of the Blues’ victorious Champions League run gave a fitting demonstration of the influence that he can have without necessary offering an immediate goal threat and it wasn’t a role too dissimilar from the deep central midfield position that Giggs has taken up in recent years.
Yet even then, the fact remains that Frank Lampard’s contributions in front of goal haven’t shown any signs of relenting and with 11 league goals, he’s currently the club’s top scorer in the Premier League. Now despite the fact four of his league goals have come in the guise of penalties, the notion of needlessly ridding yourself of such a vital source of goals is skewed enough.
With every passing year, Lampard is naturally going to regress in both his performances and his influence within this Chelsea side and another trait of that ageing process is obviously going to be his susceptibility to injury.
But although no one can offer guarantees of fitness, like Giggs, Lampard possesses an outstanding level of natural fitness and he isn’t saddled with any past lingering injury issues. Bar the 2010-11 season – in which he still managed to clock up 32 appearances – you have to go all the way back to 1997 for the last time Lampard played less that 40 times in all competitions. Similarly, you have to go back ten years to find the last time he scored less than double figures for a league season, too.
For the purists of their respective clubs, comparing Giggs with Lampard is enough to make both feel equally uneasy. But in terms of pure longetivity, why couldn’t Frank Lampard go on to reach his own 1000 game milestone? Since his own 35th birthday, Ryan Giggs has played a staggering 158 times for Manchester United, scoring 22 goals along the way. Come the end of this season, Frank Lampard won’t be too far off 800 career appearances.
Hypothetical it may be, but such a prediction isn’t without substance and even if Lampard isn’t quite as keen on playing on towards his 40th birthday, there is absolutely no reason to suggest he can’t provide a huge contribution at the very highest level for a good couple of seasons to come.
Chelsea’s decision to renege on their initial decision to let Lampard go at the end of the season isn’t the sign of a club bowing to supporter pressure or a renewed PR offensive – it’s simply basic footballing common sense. And you have to look no further than the milestone a certain ageing Welsh veteran is about to make this evening, as vindication to why Lampard shouldn’t be written off just yet.