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Taking in Lampard's first game 'back home'

In his latest blog for the official Chelsea website, our writer from across the Pond - Stephen Rea - explains why he was delighted to see Frank Lampard's first game in charge in what he calls 'home'...

I’m Ireland to see Chelsea in pre-season action, with the Frank Lampard era getting underway last night against Bohemians.

It’s an exciting week to be a Blues fan, with the return of club legend Lampard as head coach. I was delighted to be at his first game in charge, particularly with it taking place over 4,000 miles away from where I live in Louisiana.

While on holiday in the Emerald Isle I took in another sporting event, and went to watch Ireland take on Zimbabwe at cricket in a one-day international recently. For those reading in the USA, each side faces 50 overs (which is 300 balls), and whoever scores the most runs wins.

The last professional cricket contest I attended was 15 years ago on the other side of the world, when New Zealand hosted South Africa. I am much more accustomed to going to Chelsea matches, and a few differences immediately struck me after walking into this kind of ball game.

Firstly, the crowd size. Admittedly it was a midweek contest taking place during the day, but there was no grandstand or any type of tiered seating, just advertising boards ringing the field. The spectators sat in folding chairs dotted around the boundary.

Despite a number of cricket enthusiasts in the crowd, I doubt there were 100 fans there. The Blues of course, attract tens of thousands of paying customers no matter where they play in the world.

It was staged in the genteel surroundings of Stormont cricket club, beside the parliament buildings of the Northern Irish government, on the outskirts of Belfast. Temporary fences had been erected around it and security guards placed at gaps in the surrounding vegetation. Even so, I spotted one middle-aged father come crashing through the trees, not attempting to sneak in for free, but trying to find his way into the clubhouse while his son played on a nearby pitch.

It was so laidback it was horizontal. Twice young fans approached obliging fielding players to ask for selfies: Can you imagine trying that with Christian Pulisic as he is waiting to take a corner at Stamford Bridge?

Tickets were £15 and my daughter was free (no charge for Under-16s). That’s around $20 - I paid 10 times as much to see the New Orleans Saints play at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL.

Ireland beat Zimbabwe by five runs in a thrilling close finish that went all the way to the final ball. But by then I had left - we lasted four hours, but my American 11-year-old declared cricket to be “boring.” It’s not everyone’s cup of tea I suppose…

By Stephen Rea, Blogger from America

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