If Frank Lampard had refused to come off on Wednesday night Chelsea would probably have won their Champions League tie at the Mestalla; it was his 83rd-minute replacement, Salomon Kalou, who conceded the penalty from which Valencia took a share of the points with a 1-1 draw. Lampard, though, is not like that. As the storm raged around Manchester City, he did and said all the right things about his goalscoring return to the Chelsea side. Not that he was happy about being on the sidelines for much of the last month.
"We've a big squad and you have to respect the players that play when you don't. That doesn't mean I'm happy on the day, but the manager wouldn't expect you to be happy – otherwise you're content to stick your bum on the bench and pick up your money. When you do play you try and show the manager, 'OK, you want to rotate, but I want to be one of the players that you can put your house on that is going to play pretty regularly'. You have to be strong and keep yourself in shape if you're not playing [so you are] ready when called upon. That means doing extra stuff in training [to be match fit]. I'm a man who likes to play consistently. I think I always play better when I'm on a run of games, but it's the manager's decision."
Such a view is obviously at odds with Carlos Tevez's behaviour in Munich but Lampard, while stressing he would not have behaved similarly, was reluctant to condemn the Argentine.
"I wouldn't turn down coming on and all that sort of stuff, but I understand people's frustration. We deal with it in different ways. People might make the wrong decision at the wrong time and regret it afterwards so I'm not going to dig anybody out."
Lampard's worst moment this season would appear to be being substituted by manager Andre Villas-Boas at half-time at Old Trafford with Chelsea 3-0 down. Was he surprised? "No. I'm never surprised, At 3-0 anyone can come off. You have to accept it."
Wednesday's goal was Lampard's second of the season following a penalty last month, and he added: "In many seasons it has taken me a few games to get into it and be my best, so hopefully that's what will happen [now]."
The figures bear that out. Last season Lampard scored an opening-day penalty, but largely due to injury did not score again for club or country until January. He finished the season with 15 goals. The previous season he scored eight goals before the new year, 21 after it. In 2008-09 eight before Christmas, 15 afterwards.
That said, another goal at Bolton on Sunday, would be welcome. "The League's as competitive as I've experienced," said Lampard. "We can't afford to let the Manchester clubs get too far away from us – if you do you get a hill to climb as we did last year when it was too much to come back from. Other than at Man United – and that was a strange game – we're on a pretty good run and we must keep that going."
One key, he added pertinently, was maintaining the right atmosphere within the squad. "We've a nice mix at the moment with some continuity, some new faces, and a new management team everyone is trying to impress. I think we need that. At times last year when we went down [in form] we didn't react as we should have done and that's something we have to guard against. We can't let that happen because we won't win anything."Reuse content