Frank Lampard said before last night’s match that, were Derby to score, he wouldn’t celebrate openly. It would hardly seem appropriate in the circumstances, he implied, to be charging around gleefully and barging the furniture over in the place he once called home.
Well, that was typically respectful of him, of course. Typical of the man to be thinking of us, even now. But really, after 13 years of implausibly consistent excellence in a Chelsea shirt, after all those performances and all those goals and all that silverware, and having given all of that exemplary service in our interest, would anybody have minded?
After the first Derby equaliser last night, for instance, if Frank had permitted himself a small jump for joy in the technical area, would any of us have taken it awry? Not me. Indeed, if, after the second of those equalisers had gone in, he had elected to go the full Mourinho down the touchline and suddenly appear, on his knees, by the corner flag at the Matthew Harding end, I would have found it impossible to begrudge him.
In all honesty, had he wanted to saddle up a horse and ride at a gallop in a celebratory lap of honour, performing a full circuit of the stadium with Jody Morris perched behind him playing a storm on the air-trombone, it would have been entirely fine by me, all things considered.
After all, life is short, and goals are the point of football. People should celebrate them. And he’s Frank Lampard.
You will remember, no doubt, when Frank actually DID score against us (without celebrating). Five games into the championship-winning 2014/15 season, he came on as a late substitute for Manchester City and, somehow inevitably, produced an equaliser, bursting the rather lovely bubble created by our perfect league form up to then.
Our response? Well, he received from the away end at the game’s finish a burst of fond acclaim which, in its warmth, would not have been out of place if he had gone up the other end, after that equaliser, and smashed us into the lead again from 25 yards, with the final whistle sounding immediately afterwards.
Then again, many of us had already decided a long time ago that any goal credited to Frank Lampard would forever be, essentially, a Chelsea goal – and, as a consequence, many of us continue to assert that, technically speaking, Chelsea won 2-0 that day at the Etihad, and have amended our record books accordingly.
Last night an opposing team involving Frank Lampard unarguably did score for Chelsea – twice, in fact. But that same team also came the width of the post from forcing us into a penalty shoot-out – and therefore were relatively close to dumping us out of the Carabao Cup and ending the highly entertaining run which has left us as England’s solitary unbeaten team in all major competitions.
But would the air have turned at all icy had those outcomes crystallised? I very much doubt it.
He would still have been Frank Lampard, after all. He could turn entrepreneur, buy Stamford Bridge and bulldoze it for luxury flats and a shopping mall, and a few of us would still be saying, ‘Yeah, well, granted, there’s that, which wasn’t great of him. But on the other hand, the 2004/05 season… and, of course, the 2009 FA Cup final… not forgetting Munich in 2012…’
Meanwhile, we’re still England’s solitary unbeaten team in all competitions. And at home to Bournemouth in the quarter-finals of the Carabao.
Last night’s match was also the occasion to express sympathy - keenly felt by this club, for obvious reasons - for everyone connected with Leicester and for the victims of the helicopter crash at their ground last Saturday: Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Kaveporn Punpare, Nursara Suknamai, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and Eric Swaffer.
The minute’s silence at such time has given way entirely now to the minute of appreciation, and one understands why. Minutes of appreciation feel warm and sympathetic and have their own formality. Perhaps they really are a better way for football to mark things of moment.
Still, many of us will be able to recall how we felt, after the death of Matthew Harding, before the game against Tottenham, when the ground fell entirely quiet for those 60 seconds. Applause is poignant too. But maybe it’s a shame we gave up asking for, and giving, silence.