In Chelsea’s 5-3 home defeat to Arsenal last weekend, Frank Lampard reached a special milestone in becoming only the 5th player to play 500 Premier League games. Previously the feat had only been managed by Ryan Giggs, Gary Speed, Sol Campbell and David James.
It came as no surprise to those who follow the game, Lampard has been an automatic choice in his ten years at Stamford Bridge and it was the same at West Ham for the 4 years previous to that.
In those 500 games Lampard has scored an impressive 144 league goals, his strikerate one that most strikers would be proud of. Indeed, Lampard is the Premier League’s most prolific goalscorer from midfield.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said of Lampard, ‘There are very few midfielders today who can play 130 Premiership matches in a row. But there are freaks and that’s freakish.’ Frank would go on to play 164 consecutively before a virus kept him out. A veiled compliment from Ferguson maybe, but a compliment nonetheless and one that summed up Lampard as a player.
Lampard has long had a reputation as a model professional, first on the training pitch, last off it. Furthermore, on the pitch Lampard retains an exceptional disciplinary record, despite playing in the heart of midfield week in week out Lampard has received a mere 50 yellow and 3 red cards in his 500 appearances.
Earlier this season large parts of the mainstream media were queuing up to write off Lampard. The England veteran responded in the only way he knows how, by doing his talking on the pitch. A goal away at Valencia, a hat-trick away at Bolton and the opener in last weekend’s defeat to Arsenal surely confirmed that there is life in Lampard yet.
This article should not just be about Lampard however, it should be an appreciation of the dedication of those who have played week in, week out at the very top level to reach such a milestone.
Ryan Giggs is the leading Premier League appearance maker, at 579 games and counting. Giggs made his debut in the very first Premier League season, and has famously scored in every one since. He may have received stick in the United dressing room for releasing his very own fitness DVD recently, yet who can argue considering the players exceptional longevity. Giggs was monumental in the second half of the season for United last season and it would be foolish to write the Welshman off just yet.
In the other 3 players to play over 500 games, Gary Speed, Sol Campbell and David James were all flawless in their commitment to the cause throughout their careers. Such players are a rare breed.
Looking at the next players set to reach the milestone only gives further indication to the sort of character that plays so many top flight games. Emile Heskey (496) is the next on the list to reach 500, Jamie Carragher (472) is less than a full season away, while Phil Neville (466) will harbour ambitions to reach the milestone in his time as Everton captain.
Of course an element of luck in avoiding a multitude of injuries is essential, yet no one will deny that the players near the top of the appearance list are consummate professionals.
Naturally in professional football players have different lengths to their playing career, it is often the case that most footballers, once they have made it, will stay at the top level for a long time. However most players suffer injuries, or a dip in form, or find that they no longer meet the standards of the division they are in, there is normally something that sends a player into decline.
The players mentioned in this article are the exception, model professionals and truly outstanding sportsmen who push themselves to remain at the top of their game for many years beyond what is expected.
Have your say on the likes of Lampard and Giggs, the games model professionals. Comment and follow me on Twitter @CamHumphries