On Saturday, this man stood alone. Or maybe the picture is fake – we can only hope. Though there were surely a few other boos and short-sighted signs at Stamford Bridge, Frank Lampard’s return to Chelsea’s home ground was mostly welcomed with a respectful applause – an appropriate response to a visitor that returned as Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer.
Whether Lampard would be so welcomed was the subject of some pre-match discussion, even if all rationality made it difficult to imagine throngs booing the Blues icon. Having twitched to
New York City FC Manchester City this summer, Lampard went back on a promise that he wouldn’t play for another Premier League team. Now, after what was originally supposed to be a brief spell with the Citizens, Lampard will play out the entire season with Chelsea’s main title rival, the extension of his original short-term loan deal making today’s visit possible.
Lampard wasn’t in Manuel Pellegirni’s starting XI, but true to the manager’s tendencies, the midfielder was brought on in Saturday’s second half. And true to the hearts of most Chelsea fans, Stamford Bridge responded with a loving welcome:
Given what he accomplished in 13 seasons with Chelsea — 211 goals, 147 in the Premier League; three league titles; four FA Cups; two League Cups; one Champions League; one Europa League — it was the only fair response. Chelsea moved on, as did Lampard. This season is awkward, but it’s not something that should rewrite a legacy. Even if Lampard wins another title, he’ll always be Chelsea first.