On Sunday afternoon, Chelsea supporters must prove that they’re bigger and better than their Arsenal counterparts: by refusing to boo one of their former stars. Frank Lampard, now plying his trade for Manchester City, is arguably the Blues’ greatest ever player - and anyone who decides to jeer the 36-year-old at the Etihad Stadium has no business calling themselves a Chelsea fan.
The former England international, who spent 13 glorious years at Stamford Bridge before leaving the club on a free transfer this summer, deserves nothing but the utmost respect from the Chelsea faithful.
Most Chelsea fans will show respect
It’s expected that the large majority will show and sound their appreciation for Lampard before the match, but it’s safe to say that there will be a few mindless idiots happy to show themselves up.
Before they consider booing, making banners or shouting obscenities, however, they should remind themselves of exactly what Lampard did for Chelsea Football Club between 2001 and 2013.
Lampard exceeded all expectations
Nobody would have envisaged, in the days after his surprise £11 million transfer from West Ham 13 years ago, that by the end of his spell with Chelsea, Lampard would have cemented his status as the Blues’ all-time top scorer and greatest ever player.
Nobody would have envisaged him helping the club win three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups. Nor would anyone ever have imagined he’d play a key role in guiding the club to success in both the Europa League and, for the time time in Chelsea’s history, the Champions League.
And that’s just the team awards. The sheer number of individual accolades he’s secured is scary: UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year in 2008, PFA Fans’ Player of the Year/FWA Footballer of the Year in 2005, Premier League Player of the Season in 2005 and 2006, and a runner-up in 2005 for both the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year awards. The list goes on and on.
In 648 matches with Chelsea, Lampard scored a magnificent 211 goals - 147 of which came in the Premier League alone.
And in ten consecutive seasons he netted at least 13 goals or more in all competitions - a stunning achievement which deserves so much more recognition that it gets.
History won't matter to everyone
But for a few people situated in the away end at Manchester City’s home ground this weekend, all of this history will suddenly become irrelevant the moment they see Lampard in the strip of a rival club.
The fact is: if they want somebody to blame for Lampard ending up at Manchester City, they should look to Jose Mourinho. Or, better still, they should acknowledge that father time catches up with every player - and the moment came for Lampard when he was told his contract wasn’t going to be renewed, which was an entirely reasonable decision by the Blues’ coaching staff.
Lampard made the right choice to join City
The central midfielder subsequently struck an agreement to play with the newly-formed MLS side New York City FC. But because they don’t play their first fixture until March, Lampard had no other choice but to find another club - on a temporary basis - to ensure he remains match fit and ready to help his new employers.
Man City, alongside baseball giants New York Yankees, formed the new American club back in May 2013. That this partnership exists means it made absolute sense for Lampard to join the Citizens until January.
Lampard wanted Chelsea stay
The midfielder even confessed earlier this month that he wanted to stay at Chelsea - but they were not prepared to keep him onboard. If this doesn’t encourage people to think twice before booing then, surely, nothing will.
Booing and jeering former players is a relatively modern phenomena - and no set of supporters have more experience in this field than those based at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal fans are the worst at booing ex-players
Over the past ten years, Arsenal fans have taken umbrage with just about every player to leave them for another club.
Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri have all been abused; Robin van Persie has had some sickening things chanted at him by the Gunners’ supporters since joining Manchester United in 2012, and Cesc Fabregas can expect the same treatment when he plays against Arsenal later this season after joining Chelsea - despite it being widely known that he would have rejoined the north London outfit had Arsene Wenger wanted him.
Some have escaped more lightly. Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure are two who have avoided the same level of stick, while the majority of Arsenal fans - somewhat inexplicably - seemed to give their best wishes to Bacary Sagna after he left the Gunners for Manchester City this summer in order to get a pay rise and spend most of the season watching on from the substitutes’ bench.
Chelsea fans must avoid the temptation of going down the same slippery path - particularly in this case.
Lampard is a Chelsea legend and deserves to be treated as such, regardless of the fact he’s at Manchester City for a few months.
And even if Lampard scores the winning goal against his former club this season - don’t expect any Adebayor-style length-of-the-pitch celebrations, by the way - it shouldn’t take anything away from the fact that he will always remain a Chelsea hero.
Chelsea fans must show Lampard same respect as Drogba
Chelsea fans must treat Lampard exactly how they treated Didier Drogba, another contender for the title of the Blues’ all-time greatest player, last season.
The Ivory Coast international, who is now back in Mourinho’s squad having re-joined the club in the summer, was given a fabulous reception by the Blues’ faithful at Stamford Bridge.
In the end, they effectively killed Drogba with their kindness. The veteran striker was rubbish and Chelsea sailed through to the Champions League quarter-finals with a 3-1 aggregate victory.
The Chelsea supporters can do the same thing with Lampard this weekend. Booing him will only infuriate and encouraging him to make as big an impact as possible.
And, even worse, it’ll end up leaving a nasty taste in the mouths of everybody.
It’s just not worth it - and any Chelsea supporter who does choose to boo Lampard this weekend ought to feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves.