The Stamford Bridge faithful finally welcome back their hero as Frank Lampard takes charge of his first Chelsea home fixture against Leicester City in the English Premier League on Sunday.
The long-anticipated wait is over. Lampard will finally return to the place where he earned himself cult status, and despite it being under a different capacity, the feelings throughout South West London have not changed.
Despite not having the greatest of starts following his side’s first league defeat away to Manchester United and the UEFA Super Cup disappointment against Liverpool, solace could be taken by promising viewing from the boys in Blue.
Ahead of the meeting with The Foxes, we have taken a trip down memory lane to reminisce Lampard’s finest moments in a Chelsea shirt.
The Beginning of Something Special
2001 seems like a lifetime away, but that was the year that Lampard arrived in South West London after crossing the capital border from West Ham United.
The fee of £11 million appeared to have been steep at the time but nobody, apart from his uncle Harry Redknapp, could predict what he would eventually go on to achieve.
His first season gave the supporters and neutrals alike a taste of what was to come in the future. Having netted eight league goals and appeared in every single league game, Lampard had well and truly arrived at The Bridge.
It wasn’t until his second season where he really started to rise to prominence. A second-place finish in the league, followed by his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year further outlined his credentials as one of the best young midfielders in the world at the time.
“He is the best player in the world” – Jose Mourinho
The arrival of then manager Jose Mourinho helped cement Lampard’s place in the Chelsea history books.
Having played in every single English Premier League match in the 2004/2005 season, Lampard was instrumental in winning The Blues’ first league title in 50 years. His two sensational goals away to Bolton Wanderers confirmed the long-awaited celebrations.
The Blues also claimed the claimed the League Cup on their way to an historic domestic double.
Scoring 13 goals and recording 16 assists in the league, being named as the Barclays Player of the Season along with a heap of praise from Mourinho, Lampard had the world at his feet, and this was just the start.
The following season turned out to be one of the finest by anyone wearing the blue of Chelsea.
Never had the English Premier League witnessed a midfielder to be so influential in front of goal, as well as many other aspects. Lampard was once again vital in retaining the English Premier League title for the second consecutive season, as his 16 goals earned him a place as Chelsea’s highest goalscorer for the campaign.
Other individual accolades included being a runner-up in the Ballon D’or and the FIFA World Player of the Year, to name a few.
“I want to stay at this club forever” – Frank Lampard
Despite his and the club’s best efforts, they fell just short of a third consecutive league title thanks to the resurgence of Manchester United.
However, Lampard’s season was still a spectacular one. Having captained The Blues for the majority of the season due to the sidelined John Terry, the midfielder scored an incredible 21 goals in all competitions, some of which include the thunderbolt away to Everton, the audacious chip against Barcelona and his first Blues hat-trick against Macclesfield Town.
Winning silverware year-on-year was becoming somewhat of a habit for The Blues, as Lampard assisted Didier Drogba for the only goal in the FA Cup Final against Manchester United at the new Wembley’s curtain raiser, as well as winning the League Cup against Arsenal earlier on in the season.
From Tragedy, to Elation, to Heartbreak
The 2007/2008 season shadowed some of the most difficult times, not just in Lampard’s career, but in his life.
Having been used to playing on a regular basis, Lampard was hit by injury which came as a shock to many.
His injury laden season did not stop him from surpassing 100 goals for the club, after which he displayed his loving message to the Chelsea faithful underneath his shirt, “100 Not Out, They Are All For You, Thanks.”
Football suddenly took a back step following the tragic passing of Lampard’s mother but he was determined to help carry Chelsea on to their first ever UEFA Champions League Final.
Just a week after his mother’s passing, Lampard scored an emotional penalty, which was felt by supporters across the globe. That goal helped The Blues book their flight to Moscow to face Manchester United in the most important game in the club’s history.
Despite a dominant second-half display, The Blues had been rescued in the first 45 by Lampard’s equaliser as the game went to extra time and eventually penalties.
Drogba was absent due to his sending off in extra time, and his presence was missed as The Blues were left heartbroken in Moscow after being defeated on penalties.
Back to Winning Ways
A trophy less season in 2007/2008 was out of the ordinary, but normality was restored after Chelsea were victorious in the FA Cup the following season with Lampard once again scoring in a 2-1 win against Everton, in what was a turbulent campaign for The Blues.
However, the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti in the 2009/2010 season saw the English Premier League title return to The Bridge, as well as the FA Cup, and the return to goals for Lampard.
A career-high 27 goals in all competitions was the icing on the trophy laden cake, some of which included four against Aston Villa and one against Wigan Athletic in a 8-0 trouncing on the final day of the season.
However, Chelsea again went without winning a single piece of silverware throughout the 2010/2011 campaign.
I’m Not Done Yet
Andre Villas-Boas took charge of the club, in what looked to be the start of a new beginning.
Lampard drifted in and out of the side, with Villas-Boas preferring younger blood than the experienced old guard.
After the Portuguese boss was sacked, Lampard proved just how important he was.
The UEFA Champions League was the last piece of the puzzle. Something that he, along with the rest, craved.
It seemed like it would never happen, but against all the odds in 2011/2012, it did.
Chelsea were the underdogs throughout. They came from behind against Napoli, saw off Benfica and famously pulled off a miracle against Barcelona despite having Terry sent off, all of which had Lampard at the driving seat.
There was one final step however, Bayern Munich in their own back yard. The Blues were without several key players, but with Lampard taking the armband everything seemed to just fall into place.
In the final 10 minutes, The Blues were left dishevelled after Bayern took the lead. However, Drogba was there with the most important goal of his life.
It was the same situation as Moscow, extra time and penalties, but this time it felt like it was written.
Lampard, along with the heroes of the night, made it the most memorable in the club’s history.
The History Books and Farewell
Following the infamous UEFA Champions League victory, Roberto Di Matteo remained in charge of the Blues.
Unfortunately, after a period of bad results, Di Matteo was replaced by Rafael Benitez, and that’s when Lampard’s future at the club was called into question.
Rumour after rumour, it looked like Lampard was on his way out of the club but despite this, it did not distract the midfielder as he hunted down the records, as well as the UEFA Europa League title.
It was against Aston Villa where Lampard scored his 202nd and 203rd goals for the club, the latter making him the highest goalscorer in the history of The Blues. His name was well and truly at the pinnacle of the club.
The following season saw the return of Mourinho, and the end of Lampard’s playing career at Chelsea.
Lampard started the campaign where he left off the previous season, with a thunderbolt free kick which was reminiscent of previous time under Mourinho.
Lampard announced that he would leave the club at the end of the season after winning three English Premier League titles, two League Cups, three FA Cups, a UEFA Europa League, the unforgettable UEFA Champions League title and an astounding 211 goals.
By Darion Westwood