Oh, to be Frank Lampard. While the rest of us attempted to fill the empty, soulless void that is international week by worrying about Raheem Sterling’s state of mind, the Manchester City midfielder jetted off to New York for a spot of househunting.
And he had a great time. He and his girlfriend, Christine Bleakley, did a bit of shopping, took in some sights and found themselves a nice apartment in close proximity to the centre of town, as well as being within easy driving distance of the grounds of New York City football club, his future employers. And, no doubt, they took absolutely no notice whatsoever of England’s midweek draw in Italy.
How do we know these intimate details of Lampard’s private life? Because he told us and a few million more viewers on Alan Carr: Chatty Man, on Friday night.
Lampard could be the ideal sporting chat show guest. He is affable, he can string two words together and he has had a career that has been peppered with enough highs and lows that even Jonathan Ross would be able to refrain from asking a self-referential (or, more likely, self-reverential) question.
And Carr could be the ideal person to host a chat show with a sportsperson for a guest. Because, unlike Ross, Carr knows that hosting a light entertainment show involves more than flipping between gazing at the shaft of sunlight shimmering from one’s own colon and creosoting one’s nose on the farmyard area of the guest.
And he seems to take a passing interest in football – perhaps because his father, Graham, works for Newcastle United. And in his football-related questions, he refused to pussyfoot around England’s failings.
A sample question, after reeling off a list of Lampard’s club accolades: “Does it piss you off that you haven’t won anything with England?” Lampard’s answer – “Yeah...” – was accompanied by an uncomfortable smile.
The news of the new flat wasn’t the only nugget of information Lampard divulged. In fact, he gave us a whole host of stuff worth knowing: what he thinks of gay footballers; his post-playing plans (he hopes they involve television); the Latin conjugations of the word “love”; and the plot of his latest book. He writes books, don’t you know?
Then there was the priceless recounting of an episode when he was called “fat Frank” by a disgruntled West Ham fan, who Lampard referred to as “massive”.
“She was sitting there with a burger, calling me ‘you fat bastard’ and everything,” Lampard said. “I looked at her and thought, ‘My God, I am in trouble if I’ve got you telling me.’ That sort of broke the ice for me. I thought about what a load of rubbish this is and it never bothered me again.”
The “fat Frank” jibes earned a reprise at the end of the show, when Carr staged a penalty shoot-out, goading the player with belly dances and “Frank Lamp-lard” chants. Lampard took them with good grace.
Things got borderline serious on two occasions: first when Lampard was talking about his children’s books. He began writing for his daughters but has since become a poster figure for campaigns to get boys reading.
This led to a discussion about the stereotype of footballers being thick. “Does it piss you off?” asked Carr. “It does a little bit,” Lampard replied. “It’s like broader society: you meet all sorts of people, but for some reason footballers have been tarred with the same brush. There are some who are not so smart [we couldn’t possibly imagine which of his former Chelsea team-mates he could be referring to], but there are some very smart ones as well.”
Then there was the exchange of whether we will see a gay footballer. Lampard revealed himself to be refreshingly illuminated. “We are probably at fault as a sport, the old syndrome where people say it is a ‘man’s game’ and we can’t talk about that,” he said. “But the game has changed a lot; I feel it in the dressing room. I would love it if someone came out and everybody treated it with respect. That silly thing about ‘we play football and we are macho’, that is very old hat.”
A moment of silence followed, then applause. It was up to Carr to break the tension. “There have been players who have come out, but after they have retired,” he said. “It’s like they stick their head back in the dressing room and say, ‘By the way, I’m gay – and I’ve seen all your willies’.”
Sure, there was little from Lampard’s spot on Carr’s sofa to bother people who care about actual news – these days, aside from the bullying Piers Morgan and his mining of celebrity tears on Life Stories, there isn’t a chat show around that gives us much more than PR fluff.
Famous folk are media-managed to such an extent that they only appear on television when they have a book, movie or album to plug – and they have 10 minutes in which to do it. Perish the thought of a sporting star coming on television knowing they have a skeleton in the closet – and being unwittingly drawn into revealing it to millions. Put it this way: we’re unlikely to get a Michael Parkinson/Muhammad Ali-style must-watch event in this lifetime.
But Chatty Man did give us a window into a man, who, let’s face it, has very little to prove on a sporting level. And it revealed him to be more than just a phenomenally successful, extremely well-off footballer. He came across as intelligent and quite a nice bloke.
Oh, to be Frank Lampard.Reuse content