- Slaven Bilic pays tribute to 'legend' Frank Lampard following his former teammate's retirement
- Manager and former England midfielder played together at West Ham United during 1996/97 season
- Lampard went on to win 106 England caps and a host of trophies during an illustrious career
Manager Slaven Bilic has paid a glowing tribute to his former West Ham United teammate Frank Lampard, who announced his retirement from football at the age of 38 this week.
Bilic was a first-team regular when Lampard broke into Harry Redknapp’s squad 21 years ago, and was in the team when the midfielder made his full debut at Arsenal in August 1996 - two years after joining the Club as a full-time scholar.
The pair played together 16 times in Claret and Blue, before the Academy of Football graduate Lampard joined Chelsea in 2001.
The son of Hammers legend Frank Senior netted 303 goals in 1,019 career games for club and country, including 38 in 187 appearances for his boyhood team, winning the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999.
During his career he also won three Premier League titles, the UEFA Champions League, four FA Cups and 106 England caps
“People talk about legends and it’s a very common word, but Frank is one of the ambassadors, one of the biggest legends in the Premier League,” Bilic began.
“I know him well, of course, as he started his career here, him and Rio Ferdinand, when I was playing for West Ham in 1996/97.
“I use his example many, many times in my spell in Croatia as a national-team manager and in Russia, in Turkey and even here, because what he achieved is purely unbelievable.”
He is the biggest and greatest example to young players to show what they have to do to be in position to achieve something in football
Slaven Bilic on Frank Lampard
The manager revealed that he used the example of his old teammate when coaching young players aspiring to follow in the footsteps of the man who was voted the second-best player in the world and Footballer of the Year in 2005.
“He stayed with his feet on the ground and he’s a top gentleman, a top player, a top….basically everything,” he observed.
“He didn’t rely only on his talent. I remember him staying after every session, not once, twice or three times a week, but after every session to have shooting practice or do little doggies to try to improve his sharpness.
“He is the biggest and greatest example to young players to show what they have to do to be in position to achieve something in football.”
Lampard is now studying for his own coaching qualifications and is reportedly set to be offered a role with the Football Association.
Bilic said he would welcome the return of the Romford-born player to his hometown, where the Hammers now train at their new Rush Green base.
“Frank is always very welcome in our Club and I am sure he’s gonna be, like he was serious in his football career, very, very serious in his management career.”