Lamps deserves place in the spotlight
With Frank Lampard once again overlooked in the PFA Player of the Year shortlist, TEAMtalk's Jon Holmes sticks up for the Chelsea midfielder. Perhaps it's only the decision to trim down the list of nominees from six to four that means Frank Lampard is out of the PFA Player of the Year running for the fourth straight season. But whatever the reasons are for the slimmer shortlist, it's somewhat baffling that Lampard has again not been selected to stand shoulder to shoulder with the very best of the Premier League. Don't get me wrong. Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Tevez have all had superb campaigns for their respective clubs and it's no surprise that they are contenders for the award that all players want to win. The end-of-season Football Writers Association gong remains one of the great individual honours, but gaining the approval of their peers has always mattered more to footballers. However, when the voting deadline for this year's PFA prize passed around a month ago, Lampard must have failed to feature in the top four and was then deemed not worthy of recognition. The polls had of course closed before Lampard netted four times in Chelsea's 7-1 home win over Aston Villa - a quadruple that has helped catapult him to 17 goals in the Premier League this season, the most of any midfielder. But in any case, there is much more to Lampard's game than penalty-spot prowess and arrowed strikes on arrival in the area. He has contributed 14 assists to the Blues' title-chasing cause - second only to Fabregas - and he currently lies third in the Actim Index, the top-flight's official player rating system that takes all contributions in a match into account. Both Rooney and Drogba are trailing in his wake as far as their statisticians are concerned. One factor in Lampard's lofty position in the Index is his excellent disciplinary record this season. Having received at least one red card and four bookings in each of the two previous league campaigns, the Chelsea star is clean as a whistle thus far in 2009/10 and has only committed 21 fouls in total - putting him way down the list of bad boys. So why didn't enough pros mark their card for Frank last month? Maybe he's not explosive enough for them. Lampard isn't as showy a player as the four 2010 nominees, even though his goal average - recently described by Sir Alex Ferguson as "remarkable" - means he is celebrating even more often than Fabregas, and much more than the likes of Steven Gerrard or Tim Cahill. He admits himself that great pace is not one of his assets but at the age of almost 32, that's to be expected. Maybe it's his personality. Some may find his Top Gun-style 'wingman' relationship with the vilified John Terry a little too intense (for example, it's doubtful Craig Bellamy voted for either of them). Others could point to his relative intelligence. Lampard's IQ of 150+ has been mentioned in almost all his recent interviews following tests conducted at Cobham, and we need only recall the kind of comments Graeme Le Saux had to endure to realise that footballers react strangely to having boffins in their midst. As far as fans are concerned, Lampard has never been that popular outside of Stamford Bridge (West Ham supporters will be nodding their heads in agreement here). His conduct off the pitch in his younger days was particularly deplorable at times. But in the last couple of years, Lampard has largely turned this around. He won plenty of admiration for his courage in April 2008, having played on for Chelsea in a period of enormous emotional stress following the untimely death of his mum Pat from pneumonia. His picture is often splashed across the tabloids if he's been out with current squeeze Christine Bleakley, but he's far from a public person and seems to deal with the attention well. He's also a doting dad to two young girls. In short, Lampard has become a good role model for kids both on and off the pitch and the sort of player who's an ideal fit for the PFA ethos. It's a shame his fellow professionals haven't got behind Lampard for their top award in recent years but for the man named Premier League Player of the Decade a few months back, perhaps it's best that he's slightly set apart from the rest - he does, after all, plan to eventually go into management.
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