The strange Frank Lampard/NYCFC/Manchester City love triangle always felt like it was going to end in a bit of a train wreck, with Lampard's stay with City set to end this month and the MLS expansion club counting on him to be its face. Well, that train just jumped the tracks: Lampard is staying in England, and fans are shocked—shocked!—to discover that the ownership group cares more about the Premier League than MLS.
Buried in a New Year's Eve news dump, City announced that it had come to an agreement to extend Lampard's stay with the club through the end of the season. Brought in to shore up City's short-staffed midfield, the former Chelsea player has been much better than many expected, scoring five goals in 15 appearances, 12 of them as a sub. With the likes of Fernando and Fernandinho not playing exceptionally well, and Yaya Touré's impending absence during the Africa Cup of Nations, Lampard, who signed mainly just to stay in shape ahead of the MLS season, has become an important body in the depth chart.
But this decision to keep him with City was always going to be controversial. Lampard is now set to miss nearly three months of the upcoming MLS season, and City's manager, Manuel Pellegrini hasn't written off the possibility of Lampard sticking around even after this season.
Understandably, NYCFC fans are mad. (Aside: can we really call them "fans" if the team hasn't even kicked a ball yet? They're more like proto-fans.) The Third Rail, NYCFC's supporters' group, released a statement on their website announcing their unhappiness. It reads, in part:
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.
Guys, you can "reject out of hand" the notion that NYCFC is City's feeder team, but you've just seen some pretty damn good evidence that that's exactly the case. Also, it's a little rough that the big attraction for many of you was watching a 36-year-old Frank Lampard trundle up and down a makeshift Yankee Stadium pitch.
Protestations aside, they'll probably get their man eventually, and if he plays as well in MLS as he has been in the Premier League, this will all be forgotten. If not, there's more than a few past-their-prime English mids out there to replace him with.