The big interview: Frank Lampard – "When an overweight woman in the chicken run shouted 'Fat Frank', that was when I realised it was getting ridiculous"

Frank Lampard

Sam Pilger sat down for a career reflective with the former West Ham, Chelsea and England midfield general in December 2013

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What’s your favourite childhood memory of watching your dad Frank Snr play? Did you ever go and watch Uncle ‘Arry play much?
Gino S, via Facebook
It was watching one of his last ever games at Upton Park in 1985 when I was six, my Nan used to take me to the games. It was against the great Liverpool side of the time and I can remember watching Kenny Dalglish. But I never saw Harry play, he had left West Ham by then. He didn’t play as long as Dad, and he moved around a lot too.

When you get together as a family with your Dad, Harry and Jamie, is it all football talk? And what were kickabouts with that lot like as a kid?
Rob Pegley, Sydney, Australia
The four of us love talking about the game – the women of the family try to change the topic but it doesn’t work. When I was a kid the kickabouts in the back garden were amazing: there was my Dad and Harry, who had been pros and were managers, and then there was Jamie, who is older than me and was an established player at Liverpool. I used to idolise Jamie, and I knew how lucky I was to kick a ball with him. I used to see him as the pin-up boy of English football, he had made it, and I thought 'that's what I want too'.

Frank Lampard, Jamie Redknapp

Family matter: Lampard grew up playing against his cousin, Jamie Redknapp

You were seemingly very good at school, and I see you got an A* in Latin? Can you remember any of it?
Jamie Hart, London
I was pretty studious at school. I wasn’t the most naturally intelligent kid in the class, but I was fortunate to go to a very good school where they pushed you hard, and like most things I didn’t want to let anyone down, so I revised hard for my exams. I got that A* in Latin, but I can’t remember much of it now, just the common verbs. If I see a football club motto in Latin I can work it out, though.

You, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand… what was it about that West Ham academy that produced so many fantastic players?
Jake Daw, via Twitter
It is quite simple really: just hard work from the manager and the Academy. The way to bring through young homegrown English players is to give a lot of love and attention, if that doesn’t sound too soppy. But Harry [Redknapp] and my Dad put a lot of time in to it, as did the youth manager Tony Carr. Young players at 13 or 14 would be invited to train with the first team, they would go on the team coach to first-team games to mix with the senior players. Joe Cole had the chance to go to Manchester United, but chose West Ham because they had shown him that care and attention, and that was a selling point to other promising players.

I sat there really embarrassed that this fella was having a pop at me. Harry was a complete star, you should watch it on YouTube, he really puts the fella in his place!

I’ve seen that fantastic clip of your then-boss Harry Redknapp defending your inclusion in the West Ham team to an angry chap in a fans’ forum. What was going through your mind?
Bruce Rue, France
I was there, it all happened right in front of me. It’s now popped up again on YouTube (below). I was there as one of four players along with the manager and a big group of fans. [The fan] was a father of one of the boys who was a couple of years older than me, and his son wasn’t getting in the team, whereas I had just got in the team, so he had an axe to grind.

This particular bloke was saying I was in the team because of family reasons. I was a shy kid, and it was absolutely horrible. I was very nervous, and I sat there really embarrassed that this fella was having a pop at me. Harry was a complete star, you should watch it on YouTube, he really puts the fella in his place. It is great viewing now, but at the time it was horrible.

I remember when you had a row with Paolo Di Canio over taking a penalty for West Ham in a crazy 5-4 over Bradford in 2000. What did you say to each other, and did you fall out over the incident?
Jackson Cray, via email
We didn’t fall out, and looking back Paolo was one of those characters you just had to give the ball to. He won the argument because he wouldn't have left the penalty area without taking that penalty. I realised that after 30 seconds! We were both the penalty takers; he had missed one, so I took the next couple and scored. It was probably right he took that one against Bradford. I was the young pup, he was the senior guy and he actually did score it. It is embarrassing seeing us argue over it now.

I read in FourFourTwo about when you went on loan to Swansea as a 17-year-old during their relegation battle in the old Division Two. What’s your strongest memory? Was it tough so young?     
Gareth Evans, Cardiff
It was tough, but in a really good way. My strongest memory was driving four hours down the motorway as I had only just passed my test at 17. It was all a real eye-opener. The football seemed very grown up compared to the West Ham youth teams. We were fighting relegation at Swansea, it was real men and it was cut-throat. We washed our own kit, the conditions were tough, it seemed to be raining every single day down there. Since then I have always kept an eye out for Swansea.

I’ve never understood how West Ham fans could dislike such a model professional as yourself. Why do you think they booed you? Did you hear them cheering when you broke your leg against Villa, and how did you feel?
Martin Lovell, Bristol
I did hear a few boos when I broke my leg, but to be fair it was just a few not-very-nice blokes, it certainly wasn’t a big group of fans. The fact is I was home-grown, I got in to the team young, and I didn’t set the world alight when I was 17 or 18, so there was that typical view from some fans that “he must only be in the team because of his Dad”. That was the basis of it all.

[FFT: Some West Ham fans have said they thought you saw the club as a stepping stone?] No, I don’t think so, because I was a West Ham fan as a kid, I just think east London is a tough area and the fans are very vocal. Some of the other players in the team got a lot of abuse as well, I remember Paulo Wanchope got it too.

Paulo Wanchope

Wanchope also came in for some stick, says Lampard

We were fighting relegation every year, and I became a target. I hear people say it now about my nephew who plays for his Sunday team, and people say, “He’s Lampard’s nephew, that’s why he’s in the team”. I just think it's human nature to say things like that. I remembered all [the booing] when I left for Chelsea, and I showed my love for Chelsea instantly, because they took me in and looked after me. It isn’t easy to move across London. A lot of players get booed going back to West Ham, including Jermain Defoe and Paul Ince.

It has calmed down a lot in recent years. It seemed to be more vicious in the first few years I went back when it was a very strong atmosphere against me. I still get it now, but at 35 I have a lot more perspective about it. When I was 24 and 25 I wanted to go back and beat them so badly. A lot of West Ham fans I see now, however, on the street are very complimentary and nice to me.