Four Blind Men in Black……


Before l go into my experience with Frank, l cannot ignore the situation last night when the Villa manager was red carded for abusing firstly the fourth official by saying “Have you been juggling balls for Christmas” and after being given a ‘telling off’ by referee Jon Moss for adding to his Christmas tale it led to his marching orders.

Dean Smith was and had every right to question The Four Blind Men in Black for had they been on the ball or simply seen common sense the decision should have been offside.

That apart, Mings worries me as a defender when he has time on his side, and if that had been Van Dijk or in my day Bobby Moore he would have glanced over is shoulder and seeing the forward so far offside would have let the ball go through to the keeper instead of trying to control it. Had he left it there would have been no hesitation from the man on the touchline although they might have played on a few minutes before flagging. What another diabolical rule not flagging immediately, ridiculous because by letting the play go on someone is going to get badly hurt through a late tackle and then they will review it and then the rule will be thrown out, those clowns at the FA, and on the panel at Stockley Park are making a mockery of a simple game. I go back to what I told Don in one of our podcasts, ‘When we were kids in the street we’d throw down our jumpers as goalposts and have great five or six-a-sides and without a referee there was NEVER a problem. It’s true, these figures with a whistle and a flag cause more trouble than players, as years ago their excuse was that they were amateurs in the professional game but today they are now professionally overpaid – some get three matches a week, a couple of grand a game, hotel and expenses, but I don’t know about the Pole Dancers?

Back at Anfield, this cost Villa the match even though they fought to the death but the thing is the schoolteacher and policeman-like attitude is bringing a bigger divide to something that is ruining our game and that added to the VAR has since l began playing at the top level brought a new level of incompetence.

I remember in my first few matches as a very raw kid trying to keep up with the new game, swearing at a chap called Jim Finney, they rated him the best, and he turned to me and said, “Son, I’d worry about your performance,” and he was spot on. Whatever Dean Smith said to that mug the other night should not have been taken to the extreme, and the difference is had boot been on the other foot had Smith been the man with the whistle he would have walked the man over to the monitor and showed him.

It’s called common sense!

In any other business this couldn’t happen, the wrong people are having the final word and as l have reiterated a million times the results today are not about what the players are doing but what the officials are doing?

Being a gambler it use to be, in gambling terms: A home, an away or a draw, but nowadays it is: A home, an away, a draw and VAR and the bookmakers are loving every minute of it.

Friday 22 January 21: I finish this morning what I began yesterday morning and at half-time last night as I cycled through those fifteen minutes.

A far cry from my days in East London, funnily enough a place I loved living, where each morning I’d cycle for at least an hour and a half with heavy training gear and a big black bin bag (am I allowed to say that?) before doing a couple of thousand abdominals and then continue in the Steam Room of the Bow Quarters gymnasium which was once the Match Factory. I was 46-years-of-age at this time and going through a period that would almost cost me my life, not the training but the surroundings of such a place. Like Dean Smith felt last night was an every day occurrence in the clubs I played for whether with the hierarchy or team-mates, although I read the ‘book’ from Seattle the other night from former team-mates, mainly youngsters and it warmed my heart. It seemed that every new dressing room I walked into there was a problem and the crazy thing is that I signed for Chelsea, a club I didn’t support, and in 1969/70/71 I thought of nowhere else. Yeah, in our day, unlike today, you are not the one who decides, and as I said about Dean Smith, Bravo stand-up and tell these lesser mortals that they are unworthy much like those that employ them!

Dean Smith will be fined but it should be the other way around as he is doing his job right and those Men in Black are not. He has worked miracles at Villa since escaping relegation and is building a team that those in that part of the world haven’t seen for so very long – much like Stoke City, WBA, Birmingham City, Coventry City and Forest all teams that were tough opponents in our day at the top. Only the Portuguese can boast going in the right direction and although they’re in a little bit of a slump they’ll be just fine once the brilliant Mexican Jiminez is back to both fitness and his best, what a player, another case of ‘You don’t realize how good they are until they’re not there through such an injury.’

When you look at the teams I mentioned you should understand why I talk about the likes of Waddington at Stoke City and Clough at Forest and through the game getting into the wrong hands and the money mad FA – I mean how can you allow Roman to put so much money into our game and then ignore him wen he can’t get a passport? At least say something, you’ve taken his millions upon millions and don’t give a monkeys.

If more managers took a stand then finally they’d do away with all of these new rules, rules made by non-footballing people, let alone professional people.

I was awarded a goal by striking a shot that hit the side netting in 1972 and it seems nothing at all has changed, oh yes it has, it’s somehow, got incredibly worse. MY FIRST VIEW OF FRANK

Frank: I recall first setting my eyes on young Frank, having been quite close to his father and at one time very close to his uncle Harry (Redknapp) through our Seattle Sounders experiences in 1978/79.

On this particular day, my visit to their Chadwell Heath Training Ground was nothing to with young Frank, in fact l did not know Frank senior had a son at the club until he introduced me on that day.

After having a coffee and chat with Harry before training I strolled across to the field where the first team were playing a match against the second team, you know one of those practice matches that I used to despise. It was a cold day so I wasn’t at ease, unlike had it been a Summer’s day I’d have enjoyed it so much more, but it does go to show, how training is far more enjoyable than standing there freezing your nuts off watching players do what you didn’t enjoy yourself. What caught my eye more than anything was l looked over my shoulder behind some wire netting fence where the Youth Team were going through their paces with what we called “The Circle” or as some might call: “Piggy in the Middle.”

The one outstanding feature that caught my eye was that young Frank being more interested in what was going on behind him on the big pitch. This told me one thing immediately, he was so eager to get into that group of players, meaning his ambition was written all over his movements or you might say body language. Every time I looked over my shoulder his eyes were nowhere near where they should have been, but in time I’d find that his work ethic far exceeded his mind being elsewhere.

In another job of work you might call him a workaholic – a great difference to what l was called around that age – and l knew without seeing him regularly he had something quite rare in a young man. Over some time this grew and even though he was getting some pretty harsh abuse from his own fans he never flinched yet l knew in time he would have to leave because with the fickleness of the football fan can either make it break any player, unless you’re made of steel, or maybe a little backwards?

I never saw the Frank Lampard that after being at Stamford Bridge for eighteen months become the player those Chelsea fans never saw in all of his time at Upton Park – as I was hospitalized. I recall sitting up in my hospital bed in those early days after being told that I’d never walk again by a certain doctor, my cousin Tommy Mason arrived at around midnight. Tommy was as good a person you’ll ever meet and had come to both see me and take my mother home as he was just beginning work as a black cabbie. While he stroked my scarred legs he said how wonderful they looked, thinking that’d cheer me up, and then blurted out, “Alan, I’m sorry, you’re wrong about Frank, he isn’t hacking it, he’s not the player you told me about?”

I loved this man, so I had to be gentle. ‘Tommy let me explain something. They are playing him in the wrong position. He needs to play right behind the strikers and he’ll get you bucket-loads of goals, plus his fitness level is phenomenal, give it time, but only if they change.’ The man who was choosing Frank to play in that position was as far right as Frank Cross who said I’d never walk again, only Frank Cross made a very rare mistake and he said to a colleague one day on the stairs of the Royal London Hospital, “Please meet the man I said would never walk again and I hve never been so pleased to be wrong.” For me, that is professionalism, unlike so many managers and coaches that never, ever put their hands up, unless you’re Jurgen Klopp who last night said, “It wasn’t my players fault it was mine.”

In between him leaving l offered him (Frank) my services, in a training capacity, because he is a young man you not only like immediately but because l truly thought and wanted him to go to the very top – and a lot of that was because of his incredible hunger and desire and of course I liked him a lot.

He reminded me of me when training on his fitness and like Malcolm SuperMcDonald when working on his finishing. I never saw Alan Shearer in training but l can only imagine he led the way because to become such an incredible goal-scorer of such, you need to be incredibly focused and when l watch say Ronnie O’Sullivan play snooker had he been a footballer he would have been seen in the same bracket.

Certain players, when it comes to scoring goals, are like junkies because it becomes a drug and at Chelsea, like Shearer wherever he went never had withdrawal symptoms, Frank had that inner drug.

I could never have told you Frank would end up breaking all records but l could have told you under the right management he was going to be a very, very big player. He became the greatest ever midfield player of that type and it will never be repeated and is an example to any young player who thrives to be a player. I wasn’t like that at all, I came from different environment from those in East London who called themselves The Academy from Malcolm Allison to John Bond. Ken Brown to Dave Sexton, all failed footballers through one reason or another. I know Dave always had a bad knee, but so did Waddington, but Waddington used a different lubricant than Dave. It seemed that Dave was more concerned about his knee than my ankle and I’m not kidding.

The difference is The Academy at West Ham left them with a little bit of a stigma with players – and I say this as a 15-year-old playing at Chadwell Heath – thinking that they were the cream of the crop. We lesser mortals at the skimpy old Welsh Harp where old Jock stirred the tea with the stick that he painted the lines with, you knew exactly what you were getting.

This was The Academy not Buckingham Heath. After all, their home ground was in Green Street and ours a minute walk from the greatest street in the world, The Kings Road ruled the world in the 60s and 70s and no Academy could change it, why do you think Big Mal used to hang around?

When their fans screamed that they won the World Cup through Moore, Peters and Hurst (my Landlord at Stoke City) I wondered just how a team could win the World Cup but never win the Football League, strange that, but that was and still is West Ham United. This was the stigma Frank was faced with and the fans being so very fickle thought Frank was being picked because of dad and his uncle – well, what a surprise they had coming!

The humorous part of the West Ham abuse – and it was worse than this going down on one knee caper – is that those fickle football followers (they’re not true football fans) who drove him out have watched Frank almost score more goals in one season than their entire team, yet they still boast being a supporter, and still would not agree on being wrong about Chelsea’s greatest ever signing – if you look at his goals per pound note. As I write it enters my mind that reigning champions Liverpool have scored one goal in five matches, so that might put what Frank did into perspective and he scored goals from close in and faraway, and one or two headers, which didn’t effect his playing days but might be effecting his managerial ones?

What Frank endured at Upton Park, had l played anywhere and got such a reception every Saturday afternoon l would have gone AWOL like l did at Arsenal, only through totally different reasons, as l was abused by management but that was nothing new to me as l had it with a Chelsea manager and two England managers with the only difference you don’t hear it from the terraces. It also shows, as Brian Clough always said, “What Directors know about football?”

Had West Ham had employed someone like me to see what l saw on the training pitch they would not have sold their homegrown goal machine.

As l said earlier about the Dean Smith situation the wrong people are making all of the most important decisions, it really was and still is the same problem.

With Frank being under the most intense problem on the other side of that wire fence this dream that all of his hard work come true might soon turn into a complete nightmare and if that happens it will be more painful for him than all of those incredible goals he scored in his beloved blue shirt.

Again, as l write Jürgen Klopp is suffering from his first home defeat in four years, 68 matches ouch!, and l watched his post-match interview which reminded me of having a fasciotomy operation without any sleeping medication.

The team that did it was, if l had to select one, would have been Sean Dyche’s Burnley and they defied any managerial or coaching manual by playing 90 minutes as if defeat meant Death Row.

I am a purist who loves the finer points of The Beautiful Game but l sat there with nothing but admiration for a team who those same football fans were saying “their time has come” and they were right it has, only not in the way that they predicted. You’ve heard that saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” well Jurgen better take note, but he is cute and will find a way.

As for Dyche, how refreshing listening to their manager play down a monumental effort, as much as to say: “That is exactly what they’re paid to do” and that was good enough for me.

So in 24 hours l have seen two English managers stand up and be counted in a game that has slipped out of the grasp of our very own countryman. I would behave thrown in Brendan Rodgers but he is from across the Irish Sea.

And then there is Frank? #hudsonsview