Midfielder's valuable loan move
15 January ~ With Frank Lampard's time at Chelsea seemingly coming to an end, there is speculation regarding his future. When his contract expires in the summer, he could do far worse than a return to Swansea City, where he enjoyed a brief loan spell during the infancy of his career. In 1995 Swansea were a very different outfit to the Premier League purveyors of pass and move that recently defeated Chelsea 2-0 in the semi-final first leg of the League Cup. They were languishing in the third tier when a 17-year-old Lampard made his debut at the dilapidated Vetch Field against Bradford City.
Lampard's arrival coincided with an upturn in fortunes for the Swans – having failed to win in the preceding seven games, they defeated Bradford and won their first away game of the season during his eight-game spell.
"The first thing that actually struck me about Frank was his physical presence," former Swansea team-mate Kwame Ampadu has since recalled. "He came across as a big, powerful player. In fact, he was probably as big as any of the central defenders in Division Two at the time. Ability-wise, he was a very good player. You could see, as is typical of the West Ham way, that he had a real eye for goal and wanted to push forward all the time. His potential to play at a higher level was obvious."
Experiencing the likes of Peterborough's London Road, Wrexham's Racecourse Ground and Crewe's Gresty Road, Lampard netted his first league goal in a 2-0 victory at Brighton's Goldstone Ground. Long before it became his trademark, he charged forward during the second half, breaking in to the box before receiving possession, drawing the goalkeeper and providing a composed chip.
"He was quite impressive while he was with us," goalkeeper and fan favourite Roger Freestone says. "He was quiet but mixed with all the boys and looked a good player even then with good stamina and excellent distribution." Swansea's form collapsed in the second half of the season and despite the appointment of Jan Molby as manager, they were eventually relegated. Lampard returned to his parent club West Ham and his uncle Harry Redknapp gave him his debut in January 1996 but he spent the remainder of the season in the reserves.
From humble beginnings, a decorated and influential career ensued and Redknapp is convinced that his spell at Swansea was instrumental in the realisation of Lampard's undoubted potential: "He was always going to be a good player, you could just tell, but he learned an awful lot from his time in Wales. I'm a massive fan of loaning players out at a young age. There are always questions over players at that age but loaning them out helps to answer them and that certainly happened with Frank."
Lampard recently reminisced on this formative football experience and revealed that this period of his career proved educational and that he retains an affection for Swansea: "Whenever I see Swansea, you always have a bit of a place in your heart for certain clubs you have been involved in. I always look for their result and am pleased to see them doing very well." Scott Johnson