There’s no gentle way to put it: New York City fans are reacting exactly the way that New York sports fans do when getting unwelcome news. They may not be the only ones feeling that way, either.
Even Alexi Lalas got his licks in:
That reaction was virtually unanimous, with very few outliers. Rightfully so, because Frank Lampard was considered the face of the franchise. Like this:
Last we heard, New York City had sold some 12,000 season tickets. Let’s be clear, while we don’t know exactly how many of those were sold on the strength of Lampard gracing the grass of Yankee Stadium, it’s safe to say that applies to a significant number of those tickets. They were sold with the expectation that fans would be watching Lampard starting with the team’s first home game on March 15. Now, they’re stuck waiting until at least June, if not July.
That’s not where the ludicrousness of this situation stops. For starters, one of the two games New York City will play in England is rumored to be a friendly against Manchester City. So, will Frank Lampard wear Manchester City’s shirt for that game? More seriously — and to the point — Lampard turns 37 next year.
Even for a player as supremely fit as him, asking him to play in not just the Premier League, but the Champions’ League knockout stages and the FA Cup, is a tall order. Assuming he makes it past that healthy and in shape — and he’s already been injured once, so that’s no guarantee — you’re expecting him to join up with "his" team, presumably after the MLS season starts.
You’re then expecting Lampard to keep on playing seamlessly with a team he’s never trained with, in a league that’s seen other great players struggle to adapt in their first season. If — and I hate to say it, but it’s a legitimate question at this point — Lampard joins New York City at the beginning of June, that’s three whole months after the start of the season. At that point, Frank Lampard would’ve been playing, nearly non-stop, for more than two-and-a-half years.
Any way you put it, there’s no reason for New York City fans to feel happy about this deal. There’s reason to believe that the discontent isn’t limited to fans, though.
Back when Lampard was unveiled on July 29th, there was no mention of him going to Manchester. To the extent that people thought he’d be playing elsewhere, it was at Melbourne City, alongside David Villa. The reason why is because they would get immediate playing time, and plenty of it, then be able to join New York City for preseason. Jason Kreis explained why here:
Kreis said having star overseas players arrive before the MLS season starts was a point of emphasis of his, a philosophy he said the club also values.
"For me, players that enter in the middle of the season are typical fails," Kreis said. "The chances for those players to really contribute meaningfully in a second half of a season in MLS are very, very small." (emphasis added)
Read that again. And ask yourself how Jason Kreis feels tonight, now that one of his star players is entering in the middle of the season.
UPDATE: The Third Rail, the official supporters' group of New York City FC, released a strong statement tonight. Here it is:
On behalf of the Third Rail, we would like to publicly denounce City Football Group's and Frank Lampard's decision to extend his loan to Manchester City until the end of the Premier League season.
Many fans, including our members, decided to support the team, committed to season tickets, and bought merchandise under the impression that Frank Lampard would be playing for New York City Football Club, not Manchester City. Many of those fans are rightly outraged by this decision, and we support any course of action they take to voice their discontent over this decision.
Our support for our ownership group has been unwavering until now, but this we cannot support. We reject out of hand any suggestion that NYCFC is in any way secondary to Manchester City FC, regardless of the source, and are disappointed that City Football Group would give such an appearance.
The Third Rail will forever act as a voice for the fans of New York City Football Club.