Frank Lampard has recalled the “huge sliding doors moment” when everything changed for Chelsea.
It was on May 11, 2003, when Chelsea beat Liverpool in a winners-takes-all showdown at Stamford Bridge to qualify for the Champions League.
Blues boss Lampard played in that 2-1 win and the theory goes that if they had missed out then Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich might not have bought the club that summer and turned his attentions elsewhere.
Chelsea now face another crucial match with a Champions League place at stake against Wolves when – just like in 2003 – a draw will be enough to clinch a top four place but they could still miss out if they lose and results go against them.
But it is just as huge now for Chelsea to get into the top four as it was back then in terms of prestige while the financial rewards and incentives are even greater now than in 2003, especially when it comes to recruiting big names like Bayern Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz.
Lampard said: “It was the first time in my career that I could feel the tension at that level because of what was at stake.
“It was made very clear to us at the club if we did not win that game and qualify for the Champions League the club would have gone in a very different direction.
“The direction we’ve seen it go is incredible since Roman Abramovich walked through the door. I remember the build up and the feeling.
“After that I had many more feelings that kind of reached that in different ways. I’m not sure we should quite relate that feeling to now at Chelsea.
“It was a huge sliding doors moment. I think now we’re in a different place if we make it into the Champions League.
“I get financially it’s a big deal for us but I still think we are a club that will look to push on and forwards from the next year and onwards.
“What’s driving us is that we work all year, myself and the staff and all the players, to try and be successful.
“If we can manage to nail down top four, if we can get the right result on Sunday, we can look and say it’s been a really positive step and now we want to move forward.”
No-one should underestimate what a big job Lampard has done at Stamford Bridge this season in his first year of Premier League management. They are in the FA Cup final, on the verge of a top four place despite having had a transfer ban.
His managerial career is proving to be as promising as his glorious playing days but Lampard has stressed it would be dangerous to play for a draw against Wolves, especially when he is so full of admiration for the job Nuno has done at Molineux.
Lampard added: “It’s a huge achievement and in a way I’m not surprised. From the moment, Nuno has come in, it’s been an upward curve which has been so impressive.
“But also it’s the players, they have a great way of playing the game and the longevity can be solely given as credit for the staff and the players and how they have managed themselves through the year.
“There’s not much to say on that, it’s a great story but let’s not patronise Wolves because they deserve to be in and around the story for Champions League as they have been for a long time.
“They won’t quite make that I know, they’ll want to be in the Europa League for next year, they’ll want to be successful again and deserve to be where they’re at.”