STEVEN GERRARD knew all about Frank Lampard’s talents long before his future friend and foe even knew he existed.
Having enjoyed a fierce rivalry on the pitch – and each other’s company as England team-mates, friends and even TV pundits – Gerrard and Lampard move onto a new battleground today.
And Gerrard admits can’t wait to lock horns with Lampard the manager for the first time – now they are both Premier League bosses in charge of massive clubs.
Gerrard confesses: “When the whistle goes no-one wants to beat Frank Lampard more than me.
“I’m sure Frank would say something similar. Our friendship goes out of the window when the game kicks off, which is normal for us.
“Otherwise I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Frank who I’ve always got on extremely well with and found good company.
“I was aware Frank was a top player before he even knew I existed.
“I’d watched him for many years – long before I made my Liverpool debut.
“In his youth team days I saw Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen and David Thompson compete against Frank’s West Ham over two legs in the semi-final of the FA Youth cup.
“I went to the home game and the final so I was aware of all West Ham’s talents around that era – Rio obviously being another one.
The pair didn’t always see eye to eye when Gerrard was in the Red corner of Liverpool and Lampard, the blue corner of Chelsea.
“He was a top, top footballer and a fierce competitor,” said Gerrard of Lampard, who is his mirror-image in so many ways.
“He’s actually someone I’ve always got on with, contrary to a lot of reports.”
Gerrard might see it differently when the pair share a touchline with three precious points up for grabs.
But he says Lampard was always destined for management.
He added: “As a player he played with a big football IQ, so I predicted early on he’d go on to become a manager.
“Frank didn’t say much around the dressing room but when he did it always made sense.”
Lampard himself explained the pair never spoke about becoming managers but says he is not surprised his former foe followed him onto the touchline.
He said: “We didn’t discuss management as players.
“We’re both pretty similar. We’re different in our personalities but we’re both very driven and we’ll both have had a plan or an idea what we wanted to do.
“I was really pleased to see Steven do it, it’s great to see good young English coaches.
“It’s different when you’ve had careers the likes of Steven and mine.
“You maybe get analysed in slightly different ways but we have to put that to the side and just work away.
“I know Stevie is a hard worker and I’m delighted for him that he’s done so well at Rangers and now at a club with the quality of Aston Villa.”