Early Doors

Defending the indefensible

Early Doors

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Early Doors has a crazy theory - Frank Lampard is the most underrated player in the Premier League.

Does anyone actually think he is any good, either as a man or as a footballer? Early Doors has always written him off as rubbish, and yet it can't help but notice a big, steaming pile of evidence to the contrary.

That privileged, public school upbringing, the slightly portly frame and the 20 deflected goals a season just don't make him that appealing.

When people say he and Steven Gerrard can't play together for England, nobody talks about dropping Stevie G. Fat Frank is always the 'logical' fall guy.

Even Chelsea fans don't seem to like him that much, despite the fact that he is frighteningly consistent and - before this season - hardly ever missed a game.

Those in the market for a blood-and-guts Englishman gravitate towards John Terry, while Didier Drogba gets the credit for leading the side's attack.

But over the last four-and-a-half years he has weighed in with 60 league goals and 46 assists. No midfielder in the country has been more effective.

Now Chelsea have got in on the act, cussing Lamps by stalling pointlessly over a new contract that they will obviously give him in the end.

Peter Kenyon might be trying to make a point about tightening the purse strings, but in which case why did he recently hand a new five-year deal to Paulo Ferreira?

A former Mourinho pet favourite, Ferreira is now a 29-year-old benchwarmer who has the makings of being the new Winston Bogarde - a man who started two league games in four seasons at Stamford Bridge, politely refusing the club's invitation to leave and preferring to see out his £2 million-a-year contract.

If karma really existed, Lampard would tell Kenyon to stuff off and sign for Barcelona on a Bosman.

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Following his recent goal splurge, Lampard's stock is now back on the rise and, once he bags that lucrative £130,000-a-week deal, he will go back to being massively overhyped.

These things come full circle. Chelsea were mocked for paying £17 million for Claude Makelele, a man who appeared to contribute absolutely nothing.

Then a fit of emperor's-new-clothes appreciation broke out, with pundits drooling over the way he read the game and did all 'the little things'.

As a result, the defensive midfielder was thrust into the unlikely situation of being the sexiest position in football, and men like George Boateng and Gilberto Silva were treated like sporting deities.

Pele was somewhat ahead of the game when he became briefly infatuated with Nicky Butt at the 2002 World Cup, declaring him the player of the tournament.

Order has since been restored - it is now generally acknowledged that anyone with a modicum of self-discipline can operate effectively as a holding midfielder, and that Cristiano Ronaldo - not Owen Hargreaves - is the man who makes Manchester United tick.

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If Steed Malbranque turns to page 89 of the Sun, he will find himself pictured inside a milk bottle, like one of those matchstick model ships.

The Frenchman has been labelled a 'bottler' (geddit?) after ducking out of Spurs' shootout loss to PSV Eindhoven - despite taking penalties during Fulham days.

Although Malbranque missed three of his nine spot-kicks while at Craven Cottage, he surely had a better chance of hitting the target than scuff-merchant Pascal Chimbonda.

But where is the photo of Andy Johnson inside a pint of semi-skimmed? AJ once scored 11 penalties in a season for Crystal Palace, yet was taken off for Thomas Gravesen in extra time, shortly prior to Everton's defeat on penalties to Fiorentina.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Mr Coppell is the boss here but basically he does nothing during training." Reading's Marek Matejovsky reveals the secret of Steve Coppell's success.

FOREIGN VIEW: Remember Freddy Adu? Well, he 's still alive and scoring massive goals. The former New Pele stuck away a penalty in the United States's 1-0 win against Panama last night to help Team USA towards the Olympics. Adu's side drew the other day against Cuba, who subsequently had to play against Honduras with only 10 men after the rest of the squad defected.

TODAY'S TALKING POINT: ianbec on whether shirt colour makes any difference: "Don't know about the colour, but what about the design? Apparently some academics think wearing vertically-striped clothing makes you look thinner. Is this why Mark Viduka signed for Newcastle?"

To discuss over the weekend: Who is the most underrated player in the Premier League?

DISS OF THE DAY: The third and final part of kevmun82's devastating critique of the Early Doors triumvirate: "I really tried to think of something witty (for 'witty', also read 'juvenile') to say about the one at the back but I was struggling. I kinda liked him in a way (not THAT way), until I realised just how smug he looks in that picture. The kind of look that says 'I drive my Granny's old Corsa, but I've tricked it out, souped it up and now it's a pulling MACHINE!! No, I don't have a girlfriend and yes, I still live in my mum's Box Room despite being in my mid-30s, but I don't have a bedtime AND my friends are allowed to stay over, so beat that'."

Thanks kev, it's been a lot of fun. You are now the lucky recipient of a life ban from appearing on Early Doors.

COMING UP: The Champions League draw is live a-live oh! Follow video streaming from midday. Also, stick around for our full and massive preview of all the weekend's action.

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