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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 06:47 GMT 07:47 UK
Lampard riding the crest of a wave
By Paul Fletcher

Frank Lampard in action for Chelsea
At the start of the season Frank Lampard was told by a doctor that his heart is larger than normal.

If the Chelsea midfielder was concerned by the news, it does not seem to have hindered his progress.

Criticised in some quarters - England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson included - for a lack of form at the start of the season, Lampard currently leads the Premiership scoring charts with eight goals.

He is a mainstay of the England midfield, has been shortlisted for the European Footballer of the Year award and according to the Actim Index, is the Premiership's top performer this season by a substantial margin.

Consigned to history long ago are the doubts that surrounded the wisdom of his 11m transfer from West Ham in June 2001.

The manner in which he has forced his way into the centre of Chelsea's midfield and made the position his own against fierce competition may have surprised some - but not the player's father, also called Frank and himself a former West Ham player.

ACTIM PLAYERS RATINGS TOP 10
Frank Lampard.................3.08
Darren Bent.....................2.03
Jermain Defoe.................1.79
Ruud van Nistelrooy.........1.79
William Gallas..................1.76
Andy Cole.......................1.74
Wayne Rooney.................1.67
Claude Makelele...............1.67
Danny Murphy..................1.66
Joey Barton.....................1.65

"Yes, 11m was a lot of money and for the first 16 or 17 games he was played on the right of midfield and could not really do himself justice," Frank Lampard Snr told BBC Sport.

"It took him half a season to get back into the middle alongside Emmanuel Petit to show what he can do.

"I have always known at the back of it all that the higher he goes the better he gets because he takes things on board and understands the game.

"He has always had the capacity to take things in quickly and that is a big part of his game.

"His game is more mature now. He gets on the ball a lot, is good at keeping possession and his range of passes has improved dramatically over the last couple of years."

Lampard Jnr grew up surrounded by football - Southampton manager Harry Redknapp is his uncle and Jamie Redknapp is his cousin.

When Harry Redknapp was in charge of West Ham, Lampard Snr, who had by this time retired from playing, was his assistant manager.

Not surprisingly, Lampard Jnr hoped to emulate his family members from an early age.
Frank Lampard Snr
Frank works very hard on his game and he deserves what he gets
Frank Lampard Snr on his son's progress in football

"It was always his intention to become a footballer," said Frank Snr.

"Frank met a lot of famous people in his childhood, great faces like Bobby Moore, who he looked up to.

"Academically Frank was quite good at school and he was a good cricketer who played for Essex at schoolboy level, but he always loved football.

"It sounds silly but as a young kid he was always kicking a ball around the house - it used to drive me mad."

Lampard Jnr has lost none of this boyish enthusiasm and has earned a reputation as a dedicated trainer.

Like Gianfranco Zola before him at Chelsea, he often stays late to hone his skills.

"His attitude to football is the same now as it was as a kid - he enjoys playing," added Lampard Snr, who has only missed one game for Chelsea in which his son has played.

"As a young pro at West Ham he used to stay behind after training.

"He used to go round the back of the training ground at Chadwell Heath. With other players leaving he felt it might be a bit embarrassing, especially given that his father was assistant manager.

LAMPARD'S RECENT AWARDS
2004 England Supporters Player of the Year
2005 Football Writers' Footballer of the Year award
2005 Barclays Premiership Player of the Year

"Frank has done very well and that is in part because he works very hard on his game. He deserves what he gets."

Lampard Jnr is on a run of 156 consecutive Premiership appearances and is only four short of breaking David James' record.

It is testimony to his dedication and professionalism.

His father is quick to acknowledge that injuries can strike at any time - a curse that blighted Jamie Redknapp's career.

But Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and England coach Eriksson probably did not need a doctor to tell them that Lampard has a big heart.




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