It has been 27 seasons since Chelsea last had cause to pay close attention to the title race in the second tier of English football.
Kerry Dixon’s goals fired the Blues to the Second Division title and an immediate return to the top flight following relegation in 1988/89 and they’ve occupied the highest echelon ever since.
That promotion was particularly timely, with the Premier League coming into existence four seasons later and altering the sport in this country forever.
More than a of quarter century down the road, another title scramble in the division now known as the Championship may have serious connotations for the club’s future, albeit in a more philosophical fashion.
At around 3:20 on Friday afternoon, Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi was scrambling in vain to keep out a goal-bound effort at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
It had been stroked past him from 20 yards by on-loan Chelsea youngster Patrick Bamford.
As the ball rippled the net, the television commentator suggested that as much was inevitable from the moment the ball reached the 21-year-old’s feet.
The goal, which sent Boro top of the table, was Bamford’s 15th of the season from 27 starts and six substitute appearances, his second match-winner in three games.
Signed from Nottingham Forest in January 2012, his spell on Teesside is the third loan of a Stamford Bridge career in which the 21-year-old has netted 46 times across 104 appearances for MK Dons, Derby and Boro.
Should he spearhead a successful assault on the Championship title with Aitor Karanka’s side Chelsea cannot but answer some difficult questions regarding the glass ceiling between their youth ranks and Jose Mourinho’s first team.
In a season that has seen Thorgan Hazard sold to Borussia Monchengladbach and Kevin de Bruyne flourish at Wolfsburg, the Blues’ continued acquisition of the continent’s young talent is beginning to have the look of a cold, calculating, money-making operation.
Shining, as Hazard minor did at Zulte Waregem, where he was voted Belgium’s player of the year, is currently nowhere near enough to earn first-team consideration in West London, ditto Christian Atsu who starred for Ghana at the recent Africa Cup of Nations.
Would a young John Terry have been given his chance in today’s Chelsea squad, as he was after impressing the likes of the Huddersfield boss Steve Bruce when on loan at Nottingham Forest in 2000?
It’s a question which must be on the mind of Bamford’s Middlesbrough teammates, fellow loanees and centre halves Kenneth Omeruo and Tomas Kalas
However, it’s most often goalscorers that make the headlines and thus Bamford’s exploits that most keenly question Chelsea’s commitment to developing future first-team players in house.
When Didier Drogba hangs up his boots at the end of the campaign, will they give the prolific youngster the chance to fill his third-striker role?
Or will they sign another formally world class veteran in the twilight of his career a la Samuel Eto’o, leaving Bamford to the serial loanees’ plight suffered by former Blues’ youngsters Scott Sinclair or Josh McEachran?