GILES SMITH: COUNTDOWN CONUNDRUM
Having returned from deep in the archives where he researched this week's column, Giles Smith is able to bring his fellow Chelsea supporters up to speed on the domestic season…
Rumour reaches us (and we have to stress that it is only a rumour at this stage, and unconfirmed) that it could all be over by Saturday.
Reliable sources are indicating that an end to the appallingly long gap that suddenly broke out in the middle of the league season, bringing grief, suffering and uncertainty to so many of us, is now in sight.
Indeed, the most optimistic reports from people on the ground at the front line suggest that proper football could resume right across the country this weekend and that we could be playing Everton away as early as 17.30 the day after tomorrow.
Then again, maybe an amount of caution would be sensible at this stage. Forty eight hours is a long time in scheduling, after all, and it may yet emerge at the last minute that England have to play the Faroe Isles or Scotland, or someone similar, in some other forlorn quest to qualify for some tournament or other, and another week will be lost.
Fingers crossed, though: our troubles appear to be almost over.
And 'troubles' is no exaggeration. I'm sure for some people international breaks are a source of pleasure and excitement, but for many of us they are just an anxiety-laden period in which our key talent passes several hours in an aeroplane and threatens its fitness in a needless 50:50 with a glory-hunting Moldovan (or similar). It can be hard to rest easy in those circumstances, even under the kitchen table in the relative safety of your government-issued Morrison Shelter.
We count them all out, we wait, and, if we're lucky (like this time), we count them all back again. And then we trust them to pick up where they left off.
We can trust them to pick up where they left off, can't we?
But, now we come to mention it, where did they leave off? It was all so long ago. Indeed, it's probably worth me giving a brief recap of where we were up to, before we were so rudely interrupted.
The season had opened in August with a warm welcome to the returning Jose Mourinho, formerly of this parish, followed by 20 minutes of some of the most fluid football Stamford Bridge has witnessed, and a home victory over newly-promoted Hull.
The following Wednesday night there had been another home game, and another home victory, this time over Aston Villa.
On the Monday after that, we had outplayed a rather confused-looking Manchester United at Old Trafford, where we were unfortunate to come away with only one point. And then we had gone to Prague and won a moral victory over Bayern Munich in the Super Cup.
I went back to the archives, blew the dust off some old newspapers, and located a copy of the Premier League table, as it was when play stopped. And would you believe it? At that stage, after three matches, Liverpool were top of the table, just above us.
Still, history shows that the table very often has a surprising look to it, in certain aspects, at this point in the year. Some unexpected team that no one has really been talking about sets off on a blistering early run and ascends implausibly to the top of the table for a while, to universal astonishment.
I remember Hull doing that, once upon a time, and Aston Villa, and even West Ham one year. Often it's a promoted side that sets off with the burners on full blast for a month or so of glory before the fuel runs out and they fall away like a spent firework. And this year it's Liverpool.
What's not to like? It shakes things up a bit for a little while, makes life interesting for a couple of weeks, and it's something for their fans to enjoy.
Of course, this time the blankness of the international interval was made more colourful - and even, perhaps, quite bearable - by the celebrations surrounding Frank Lampard. But, no disrespect to Frank, even those felt a little 'ho-hum' for those of us waiting at home for the real action to resume.
Not that managing to appear for your country 100 times isn't an extraordinary achievement, particularly for a box-to-box, goalscoring midfield player and one which merits every astonished accolade which comes its way.
It's just that, round these parts, barely a week goes by these days without Frank strolling calmly past some amazing career milestone or casually breaking some invulnerable-looking club or personal record. That's just the air we breathe, being around Frank, so when the media was getting all excited about 'Lampard the Centurion', it was only naturalthat we Chelsea fans were at home shrugging and saying things like, 'Well, obviously' and 'D'oh! What do you expect? It's Frank.'
Congratulations, though, obviously. What a player.