This wasn’t your average round-of-sixteen League Cup match between a Premier League team and one from the Championship.
The (biggest) reason why was standing on the sideline, for the first time in the dugout after 13 years of ruling the Stamford Bridge pitch. (The first of a future many?)
Frank Lampard came back to Stamford Bridge in an official capacity for the first time since he retired as a player. And he received a right royal reception, the kind of reception befitting a club legend who is loved and revered like perhaps no other Chelsea player.
Before the match, a massive tribute was unfurled in the Mathew Harding stand.
During the match, on at least two occasions (in the second half, once Chelsea had a lead) fans gave not one, but two rocking renditions of ‘Super-Super Frank.’
And at full time, it was more of the same, with Lamps actually doing a lap of honor to thank the fans for their support. (One imagines the reception would’ve been slightly less warm if Lampard were able to pull off the upset — although he wasn’t far from doing so!)
In the tunnel afterwards, Lampard explained why, from his perspective, this was more than just a warm welcome. To him, it was forgiveness for the way he felt he left the club.
“I’m so thankful to the Chelsea fans. I left through the back door and it upset me at the time but I have nothing but great memories of this place and they thank me like that. I’m a lucky man to have a night like that and I feel it.”
It’s not just that Frank Lampard is the leading scorer in Chelsea’s history with 211 goals. It’s not just that he was perhaps the finest player in the 113-year history of the club. It’s also that he carries himself with grace, humility and has a connection with supporters — all of which is reflected in his own reaction, too.
He has a special place in Chelsea hearts.
Until the next time then, Frankie.