Frank Lampard promised he would be back at Chelsea as a supporter after his tenure as interim manager ends on Sunday.
His side host Newcastle looking to give Lampard the first home win of his second spell in charge, and help the club’s record goalscorer sign off on a relative high after losing eight of his 10 games.
The former midfielder, who won three Premier League titles and the Champions League during his 13 years as a player in west London, did not return to Stamford Bridge after he was sacked as manager in January 2021 until April of this year to witness the team’s goalless draw against Liverpool.
That came two days after ex-boss Graham Potter was sacked 31 games into a five-year contract, and within days Lampard had been installed as temporary boss while the club searched for a permanent successor.
The 44-year-old insisted that it was only circumstances that had kept him away – the period coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and his 12 months spent managing Everton – and that his visit for the Liverpool game, which he watched from the box of co-owner Todd Boehly, had been planned for weeks.
It was later reported that Lampard had been touted as a possible interim candidate by club officials several weeks earlier when Potter was seriously on the ropes after a run of poor results.
The game against Newcastle will round off a campaign that cannot come soon enough for fans after enduring comfortably the team’s worst season in 30 years.
Nevertheless, Lampard was hopeful of giving them something positive to take into the summer as he prepared to make his third exit from the club.
“I don’t want this to sound corny but I don’t feel like it is a goodbye,” said Lampard.
“I appreciate it, it will be end of season and end of my time back but normally when you leave a club you don’t have a hurrah as a manager. You are in one day out the next and that’s fine.
“This is the corny part, I will never feel like I am saying goodbye to the fans. My career as a player and as a coach first time around and this period and it is there.
“I live close enough to the stadium and I will be back at Chelsea many times and when you take on a managerial career it doesn’t mean you will be at a club you had 13 years at as a player forever.
“I’m quite calm about it and not too nostalgic about it but certainly do appreciate the fans’ support on Sunday. More than anything I would love to give them a performance to take away for the summer and feel a bit more positive about for sure.”
Lampard could again turn to Chelsea’s young prospects against Newcastle with a number of first-team players unavailable.
Reece James, N’Golo Kante and Benoit Badiashile have all played their final game of the campaign while Lampard was doubtful whether Mason Mount will be fit to make what could be a farewell appearance at Stamford Bridge.
Raheem Sterling is also a doubt after injuring a hamstring in the defeat to Manchester City.
The loss of James has been a particular blow for Lampard during his brief stay, with the England defender having been the standout performer this season as the team has struggled.
He was ruled out of the rest of the campaign after injuring a thigh in the Champions League home defeat to Real Madrid.
“(Reece) came out (to train on Wednesday) and went back in but because he had a little bit of an awareness but we hope the scan will show there is no real damage,” said Lampard. “It was just a little reminder that it is a bit too early to be out.”