Sam Wallace: Lampard all too convenient a target for fans' frustration at England's shortcomings

Lampard is not contrite in the way the mob so often demand. When England crash out of a tournament an apology can be the easy option but he does not take it

It is the fate of the modern footballer that, like a politician ousted from office, the curtain falls on his career in a frenzy of sniping and revisionism in which the bleak times are all that are remembered and the good old days lost in a fog of blame.

If Frank Lampard was a prime minister, and his England career his term in office, then he would be at the stage now when the backbenchers were plotting and the ministers picking sides. His omission from the England team on Friday night was met with unrestrained glee in some quarters that a player who has divided opinion could be on his way out, although since then it has emerged there is a good chance Lampard could start against Wales tomorrow.

How has it got to the point that such delight is taken at the prospect of Lampard's England career ending? He is 33 and has 87 caps – including his late substitute's appearance against Bulgaria on Friday – during which he has scored 22 goals, placing him 12th in the all-time goalscorers' list. Of those goals a relatively high proportion, 16, have come in competitive games for England including three at Euro 2004 and five in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. Even in the dismal qualifier against Switzerland in June it was Lampard who scored the penalty that began England's comeback.

Yet in the last five years, no England player seems to have attracted more sustained vilification from elements of the support. It was the conundrum of Lampard and Steven Gerrard's compatibility that confounded a series of England managers but it was Lampard who got most of the blame for it.

There is no doubt that, at times, Lampard has fallen short. The 2006 World Cup was a watershed. Going into it he had won successive league titles with Chelsea and, on the back of his breakthrough into the England team in 2003, the coming man of the midfield. His failure to score at all in Germany, and his penalty miss in the quarter-final shoot-out against Portugal, turned him into the poster boy for what came to be regarded as the squandered promise of the golden generation – a label Lampard himself has always railed against.

But we all know the backstory, a familiar tale of bright young English footballers overburdened by a football-obsessed nation jacked up on grandiose dreams. The same cycle of adulation and condemnation could yet afflict Jack Wilshere but as yet he is like Lampard in 2003: young, untarnished by disappointment at major tournaments and offering the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

The problem for Lampard, as he reaches the dusk of an England career is that he does not get a fair hearing. Even his staunchest advocate would accept he has been due his share of the blame at times for England's poor performances. He went from October 2005 to November 2007 without scoring a goal in a competitive international which, for a midfielder whose game is based on goalscoring, is a bad run. But 13 short of a century of caps, his legacy deserves a more rounded assessment than the current rush to bury him.

At Stamford Bridge, Lampard will always be the favourite, above even the home-grown John Terry, and is a creditable challenger to Gianfranco Zola and Peter Osgood as the greatest player in Chelsea's history. At Chelsea, they regard Lampard, third in the Fifa world player of the year awards in 2005, as a benchmark for excellence. With England, Lampard has been judged more on who he is not. And he is not Xavi Hernandez or Andres Iniesta or Kaka at his best.

There was his withdrawal from the England squad before their Euro 2008 qualifier against Andorra on March 2007, days after Lampard had been made the fall guy for a bad 0-0 draw with Israel in Tel Aviv. When it looked likely he would be dropped for the Andorra game he pulled out with a wrist injury but still played for Chelsea against Watford six days later. Yet it tends to get overlooked that in October that year he was relegated to substitute against Estonia and Russia in the dog days of that campaign but came back as one of the few to have a decent game against Croatia in the final defeat in November, scoring from the penalty spot.

Selfish when he gets a sight of goal? You bet he is, but then you do not become a 20-goal-a-season midfielder without pulling the trigger. Does he have the gifts of Paul Scholes? No – but then Lampard never quit international football at 29, as Scholes did, although it must have crossed his mind to do so at times.

There are other factors at play in Lampard's relationship with English football fans that are less easily measured in goals scored and games played. Lampard, for instance, has never been one for the post-match confessional. He is unfailingly ready to speak after games for club and country but he is not contrite in the way that the mob so often demand. When England crash out of a tournament an apology can be the easy option, but Lampard often does not take it.

Lampard has never backed down in his mutual animosity with West Ham fans, which means he is guaranteed a quorum of England supporters who will never forgive him. At Upton Park they like to sing: "Big fat Frank/Big fat Frank/ Big fat Frankie Lampard," a peculiar choice, given so many of those who sing it could scarcely claim to be devotees of the lettuce leaf and the fruit smoothie themselves.

Lampard is just the latest English footballer upon whom the hopes and expectations of the supporters were projected and who, when England came up short, was in turn a lightning rod for that anger and frustration. He has never won World Cup or a European Championship and, like every England footballer since the boys of 1966, that comes at a cost to one's reputation. But look at the longevity and the goals. They entitle him to a kinder farewell.

Neville the serial provocateur still fanning flames of animosity

Gary Neville's carefully hedged allegation in his serialised autobiography that Liverpool threw their game against Chelsea in May last year to make sure Manchester United did not win what would then have been their 19th Premier League title will do nothing to dampen the animosity that burns between that part of Merseyside and the former United man.

But, looking at it dispassionately, if you were to throw a match then the least discreet way of going about it would be to instruct the captain to give the ball to the opposition's centre-forward in front of goal – as Steven Gerrard did with Didier Drogba that day. Still, whatever your view, at least Neville is giving us the unadulterated version of his views, rather than watering them down. In Sofia last week, in his capacity as a Sky Sports pundit, Neville had a bodyguard with him. Chances are that it won't be the bodyguard's last assignment.

Wenger failed to heed red alert over Wilshere

Arsene Wenger said last season that Jack Wilshere was "in the red zone" when it came to his vulnerability to injuries and that was how, ultimately, he persuaded him to drop out of the Under-21s European Championship. It looks like the Arsenal manager was right on that score, with Wilshere yesterday confirming that he will be out of up to three months with a right ankle problem. Nevertheless, given that Wilshere went on Arsenal's first pre-season tour of Asia this summer and then sustained his current injury in the Emirates Cup pre-season friendlies, you have to wonder if his club underestimated just how long a break from football he needed.

News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game