It was in front of Villa Park’s North Stand that Frank Lampard further etched his name into Chelsea folklore. Trailing to a first-half Christian Benteke strike in our penultimate league game of last season – which had put our hopes of qualifying for the Champions League in some jeopardy – Lampard levelled matters up with a sweetly-struck left-footed drive, before netting the winner two minutes from time following a trademark late run into the box.
The game-turning goals did not just boost our European ambitions for the following season; they also took him ahead of Bobby Tambling on our all-time goalscorers’ list. The elusive figure of 203 was more than any other Chelsea player had managed in our long, illustrious history. Lampard is no stranger to glorious Chelsea moments such as that one, at home or abroad, individually or collectively. So what exactly will it feel like to return to the scene of perhaps his finest individual moment?
‘It’ll always be a great memory for me in football, one of my best, so it’ll be nice to go back there,’ Lampard smiles.
‘The past is certainly heavily on my mind at a lot of places we go to. As a personal moment Villa will always stay with me, while Bolton is always a good one to go back to from when we won the league there for the first time. The flip side is there are certain grounds you don’t feel so confident at because you’ve had negative days there.
‘Players definitely do reminisce about this kind of thing – as I get a bit older I certainly look back on things like that more – but because there’s so much going on in your head looking to the future I don’t think you can dwell too much on it.
‘One day, when I think back to it all, it will be with completely lovely feelings. I think I’ll forget the negatives ones because we’ve been lucky to have had so many good memories here that they will supersede it all anyway.’
It seems apparent, then, that our no.8 does allow himself at least some time to reflect on the past as he prepares to try to influence the future. That thought process is not simply limited to stadiums of special significance, continues Lampard, who has scored more goals against Aston Villa than he has against any other side.
‘You do get the same feeling when you play against certain teams. There are teams I’ve got a good record against, and for some reason I think I maybe feel slightly more confident personally in those games.
‘There are other teams that you find it harder to score against and certain grounds when you go in with that feeling. It doesn’t always work that way but you can have that general kind of feeling sometimes.’
Lampard, as thoughtful as ever as he chats in the canteen at Cobham, is in a position to consider his past not just because he has won an enviable array of trophies and awards; simply put, he has also played an astonishing amount of first-team football at the very highest level. On Saturday, he moved into second place on the list of all-time Premier League appearance makers, his 573rd outing in England’s top flight taking him clear of David James.
‘Anyone who has played around or over 500 Premier League games deserves a lot of respect so I’m very proud to be amongst names like that.
‘David James was a longstanding player in the Premier League and Ryan Giggs stands out there on his own so it’s a really nice thing to be so high up there with those kinds of names.’