TOM Lampard will make his 400th Cross Keys appearance on Saturday afternoon and then set his sights on fulfilling a promise to a Pandy Park legend to break his record.

Athletic forward Lampard will lead Keys out in their home Championship Cup encounter with Bedwas this weekend.

The 36-year-old came was a youth player with Newbridge and then played for Pontllanfraith and Fleur-de-Lys before becoming a mainstay of the pack at Pandy Park.

Lampard made his first appearance in 2005 and 16 years later will make his 400th league and cup outing, one that would have come a lot sooner were it not for the coronavirus pandemic.

But the flanker-turned-lock, who readily admits he no longer has the mobility to cover wing and centre as he did in the past, is not thinking of hanging up the boots quite yet.

Only one man has played more for Keys in the post-war era – prop Richie Donovan racked up 412 games after his debut in 1980.

The Gwent icon died last year at the age of 64 and had urged Lampard to knock him down to number two in the list.

“I spoke to Richard before he passed away and he told me to go for the record,” said Lampard.

“That was one of the last times that I spoke to him so it would be nice if I could reach that as well, but I’ll have to take it a game at a time and see how I go.”

Lampard is Keys’ captain for the season and the approaching 400 helped ensure he didn’t join the players who called it quits after getting out of the habit during lockdown.

South Wales Argus: ATHLETIC: Tom Lampard claims lineout ball in the final game before lockdownATHLETIC: Tom Lampard claims lineout ball in the final game before lockdown

“Coming back after so many months off, with no training and living a normal life, I was wondering whether I could get fit enough to play again,” admitted the builder.

“Some players have retired in the break and I did question myself but felt I wanted to see if I could still do it out there, and being so close to 400 meant I had to try.

“I am back in the rhythm now and enjoying it; I’ll never be as fit as I was before the pandemic and I didn’t think I’d still be doing the full 80 minutes!

“It took me over a week to get over our first competitive game back against Bargoed – I got bruises from minor bumps and that never used to happen.

“When I was younger I’d just need one recovery day and I was back ready but that really hit me for six.”

South Wales Argus: WINNERS: Tom Lampard with the WRU National Cup in 2012WINNERS: Tom Lampard with the WRU National Cup in 2012

Lampard was a Tom Croft type figure in the successful Keys pack that contained more than its fair share of bruisers when challenging at the top of the Premiership approaching a decade ago.

His mobility was a key feature of the 2011/12 campaign when the club reached the final of the British & Irish Cup and then beat Pontypridd to lift the WRU National Cup.

Lampard has had to adapt his game.

“Instead of just using my speed and engine I try to read the game better so that I can get into the right positions,” he said. “I can’t burn the body out and have nothing left for the last half hour!

“I am still enjoying it and it’s fun to see younger boys with real talent come through. It will be weird when I finally do retire but I don’t plan to do that yet.

“I’ve always said that if I am not performing then I don’t want to be playing. I still hope my performances are good enough and I’m not making up the numbers.”