WHEN Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley first met at the Pride of Britain awards in 2009, it was love at first sight.

Both were single – Christine had split from Belfast entrepreneur Mark Beirne that January, while Frank and his fiancée Elen Rives had ended their seven-year relationship the previous November.

Although Frank’s chat up line left a little to be desired – Christine has revealed, "He came over and said, ‘I watch you on The One Show’” – the attraction was instantaneous, and the pair bonded during a series of long-distance phone chats while Frank was away with the England team.

“By the time we met again a couple of weeks later, we had done all the awkward chats,” Christine added. “I knew straight away it could be serious because I knew we could be mates and he made me laugh.”

Not your typical WAG

At first glance, Christine, 41, might have seemed an unlikely choice for 42-year-old Frank. She was by no means the typical footballer’s WAG, but a serious career girl with a high-flying TV role on The One Show. In fact, she even dubbed Frank her HOB: “husband or boyfriend”!

However, a source close to the couple has told Fabulous that’s the very reason why their marriage has been so successful.

“Frank had a huge connection with Christine from the moment they met,” our insider revealed. “She isn’t like any of the other women he’d been involved with before and he was drawn to how different she is. It was a love match.

“She’s always had her own career and her own independence and he respects that. She's feisty, intelligent and opinionated and she isn't afraid to challenge him. She's a million miles away from one of those women who wants to be treated like a princess.”

In fact, our source says the fact they’re both high-profile has been a strength, not a weakness in their relationship. While Frank is now managing Chelsea FC, Christine presents Loose Women and one-off shows for ITV.

Our insider revealed, “Both of them are very down to earth and neither of them have an ego. It’s never been a case of one of them trying to steal the spotlight from the other one. Nobody is vying for attention.

“Their careers are so different so there’s no jealousy or friction there. They’re hugely proud of each other and their achievements and there’s just no competition.”

Shared family values

Frank – who comes from a tight-knit footballing family which includes uncle Harry Redknapp and cousin Jamie – loved the fact that Christine shared his love of family life.

“Apart from the obvious physical attraction between them, he was really drawn to her values and the fact her family are hugely important to her,” our source says. “She’s very close to her sister and her parents and he is really close to his family too so that’s something he could relate to.”

Christine was stepping into a potentially tricky situation, given the fact Frank has two children, Isla, 13, and Luna, 14, with his fiery ex Elen.

It wasn’t easy, with Christine revealing in 2015, “I'd like to think, if you asked the girls in ten years' time, they would say that it was a well-thought-out process – I didn't meet them for a year, on purpose."

But by the time Frank proposed in 2011, Christine had started to bond with his daughters and in 2014 he said, “Christine’s done amazingly becoming a step-parent to them.

"She’s been in the girls’ lives for four years now, she’s completely taken to it.” Both were flower girls at their romantic winter wedding in December 2015.

Our source adds, “‘Christine’s a great step-mum. Her relationship with Frank wouldn’t have worked out if she didn’t have a good relationship with them as he dotes on them. She’s always been like a friend to them and has never tried to be their mum.”

Cosy nights in keep them close

By the time Frank and Christine met, she’d already moved to London, after spending the early part of her career in Northern Ireland. She initially kept her house in Newtownards where her parents live but settled down with Frank in his beloved Chelsea where they live in a fabulous £10million mansion.

Even when he briefly moved to New York in 2015 to play Major League soccer, she said, “Home is London for us and there is no furniture moving anywhere, so there’s the ability to dip in and out of this mad world we have all grown up with watching movies and Friends.”

In fact, according to our source, what unites the couple is their mutual love of a low-key night on the sofa, and one of their relationship rules in normal times is to make the most of evenings when neither is busy.

“They are both total home birds and love nothing more than a night in. If they have to go to a red carpet event they will get home as soon as they can,” our insider says.

“They’ve never been party animals and are both just really grounded and normal. They don’t lead a showbiz lifestyle at all.

“They do have date nights though and love to go for romantic dinners somewhere nice in Knightsbridge or Chelsea.’”

Endless support

It hasn't all been plain sailing for the pair. A year after they got together, Christine was the centre of a tabloid storm over her controversial move to ITV to front their new flagship breakfast show Daybreak with former One Show co-host Adrian Chiles. The show flopped and Christine came in for a barrage of criticism.

But Frank was there for her, as our source reveals: “Even when Christine had a really rough time in the early days of their relationship when she was on Daybreak, the bad press didn’t hurt her that much because her and Frank had such a solid foundation and he was right behind her.

"She has such a happy home life that she doesn’t need to get concerned with what others think.”

In return, Christine has supported Frank as he made the transition from player to manager, and had to take on roles which meant being away from the family home for long periods.

“Frank has always been her biggest supporter and she’s the same with him. She’s hugely proud of his success and understands that sometimes his career takes him away from home,” says our source.

Just before they met, Frank had suffered a huge personal loss when his mother died from pneumonia at just 58. Christine has revealed, "On our wedding day he said in his speech that his biggest regret was that I never got to meet her.”

The insider adds, “Losing his mum when he was 29 absolutely devastated Frank and those close to them think Christine has been a huge emotional support to him with this. His mum Pat was his world and he adored her.”

Truth and respect are their core values

When Frank and Christine had their long-awaited baby in 2018, our source says, “It was no surprise to anyone that he and Christine named their baby Patricia – Patsy for short.”

It surprised many that it was almost ten years before the pair became parents, but Christine has insisted she was in no rush, saying, “I was happy in my marriage and that was enough.”

But according to our source, a tot was always on the cards: “A baby was something they wanted for a long time and they were so happy when Patsy came along. They’re both besotted.”

Frank’s spoken gushingly about Christine’s mum skills, saying, “Christine is the best, she's being humble, she's the best mum. She wakes up all the time. I sleep through.”

Our source adds that after rows with Elen in the early days of his relationship with Christine, Frank’s made sure Isla and Luna feel included, saying, “Since Patsy has arrived, Frank is always very conscious that his older two daughters don’t feel left out.”

That’s typical of the kind of mature relationship that Frank has with Christine. And according to our source it’s that maturity which will keep them together in the long-term.

“Their relationship has stayed strong for all this time because it’s based on trust and respect. Christine is a very secure, stable person. Anyone who meets her in real life is blown away by her beauty and how warm and welcoming she is.”

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