Lampard ends England duty with dignity
He was the last of England's fabled "Golden Generation" to call time on his international career, yet Frank Lampard is worthy of more acclaim than many of those who have gone before him.
Greatness is bestowed only on those who have winners' medals and personal accolades to back up their worthiness, and while none of this era of England internationals can display such rare pieces of gold, few have tried harder than Lampard to alter that script.
This superb athlete, who was cruelly and ultimately foolishly given the nickname of "Fat Frankie" by West Ham supporters following his defection from their club to Chelsea back in 2001, deserves to go down in history as an England international great in an era when so many around him failed to live up to their billing.
Playing in an England team that continued to disappoint was hardly a joyous experience for Lampard, with the abuse he was singled out for by England "fans" who seemed to delight in taunting him at Wembley on occasion, making the honour of playing for his country something of a trial at times.
"You are only human and the first time you get a bit of stick it does affect you," said Lampard at a press briefing back in 2009, following an especially unpleasant night of abuse he had to suffer during Fabio Capello's reign as England manager.
"Gradually it becomes easier to deal with. You start thinking it doesn't matter too much and concentrate on doing your job, but it is not nice for anyone to take stick from their own fans. It has actually made me a bit stronger for coming through it and at no point did I think I would walk away from playing for England because of it."
Those criticising Lampard argue that their angst was inspired by a perception that this supreme Premier League and Champions League performer was not producing his best in England colours due to a lack of passion for the national team cause.
His narrow-minded critics conveniently neglected the fact that the likes of Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and the rest of his "golden" colleagues had more than a few off-nights in an England shirt, as Lampard was persistently picked as the biggest culprit for the failure being orchestrated by those with Three Lions emblazoned on their left breast. It was victimization he did not deserve.
In his 106 internationals, Lampard scored 29 times for England, and while his midfield partnership with Liverpool's Gerrard never caught fire as it should have done for two players with proven abilities to perform against the best in the world, his legacy should not be tarnished by a failed double act.
As a solo performer, Lampard's achievements in an England team that has toiled throughout his tenure on the international stage have been commendable.
Earning his first senior cap in October 1999, Lampard went on to become only the eighth man to collect a century of caps for England. While many of his generation struggled to have matches that defined their careers on the biggest stage of them all, this Chelsea great has more than a few entries in his personal international hall of fame.
Lampard was named in the Euro 2004 Team of the Tournament after scoring three times and excelling in an England midfield that showed real signs of promise until a penalty shootout defeat against Portugal in the quarterfinals.
He then contributed five goals to his nation's qualifying campaign heading into the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany, with his coronation as England's Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005 confirming that his nation's football lovers were appreciating his contribution to the cause.
Arguably, his lasting legacy to the game as a whole came when he was a victim of injustice after his chipped effort beat Germany keeper Manuel Neuer, crashed off the underside of the bar and should have given England an equalising goal in a second-round clash at the 2010 World Cup finals. The officials failed to spot the ball crossing the line, an incident that dramatically hastened the introduction of goal-line technology in the game.
A goal from captain Lampard that gave England victory over all-conquering Spain in a friendly international at Wembley in November 2011 was one of his final memorable acts in an England shirt, and while he made the cut for this summer's World Cup finals and captained the side in their final match of an already doomed campaign, his role in a setup being overseen by Roy Hodgson had long since become peripheral.
At the age of 36, the only surprise was that Lampard took so long after his Brazil 2014 experience and his move to New York City FC (via a loan spell at Manchester City) to make the decision to call time on his international career. This was the natural time to end his national service and he can look back on his efforts with his head held high.
The England team may have failed over the course of the past decade and more, but Frank Lampard shouldn't be blamed for their numerous brushes with mediocrity.