The pariah was hailed as a Messiah. The angry young man allowed himself an approximation of a smile. Appearances, though, were deceptive. John Terry and Ashley Cole can no longer avoid the consequences of their behaviour.
Chelsea have little choice but to respond to the widespread perception that they are a club in denial. They are likely to fine Cole in excess of £200,000, a fortnight's wages, for his Twitter outburst, and will deal with Terry assuming he abandons his appeal against his punishment from the Football Association.
It hardly made for a carefree afternoon at Stamford Bridge. The opposition was poor, the result was a formality, and the soundtrack was strangely subdued. The names of the Toxic Two were chanted in unison, but the occasion hardly resembled a party rally in downtown Pyongyang, which is what we have come to expect.
The Dear Leader, Roman Abramovich, has definitive decisions to make. He was notable by his absence from his executive box, and though he will remain a silent, spectral presence, his authority must be imposed. The fine levied on Cole will be worthless if the owner fails to demand an overdue change in attitude.
It is unrealistic to expect the siege mentality to lift voluntarily. Chelsea officials are understood to be deeply unhappy with the FA's criticism of their conduct in the Terry case. But the culture of self-indulgence is compromising a club with pretensions befitting European champions.
Stamford Bridge stages the Leaders in Football Conference this week. That has the potential to become a corporate PR disaster, because influential figures, from across the world, will doubtless be canvassed for their opinions on their hosts' ability to confront controversy.
Chelsea may be Abramovich's executive toy, but the club has corporate and social responsibilities. The obvious inconsistency between its "zero tolerance" approach to racism, and the identity of its captain must be addressed if the FA decision stands..
One needed only to flick to page 11 in yesterday's programme to appreciate the dilemma. There, under the portentious headline "Building Bridges" the club urged fans to "help us tackle discrimination at Stamford Bridge".
It reminded supporters that "any form of racist or indecent chanting is an arrestable offence", and gave text and telephone numbers with which to report incidents. Fine words, but meaningless while Terry remains a pivotal figure.
These things tend to take time to play out. Liverpool's bull-headed defence of Luis Suarez was the catalyst for the removal of Kenny Dalglish as manager. Ian Ayre, an unconvincing managing director, may yet follow Ian Cotton, a highly regarded communications director, out of the Shankly Gates.
Chelsea's latest crisis has compromised David Barnard, the functionary whose recollections were branded "materially defective" by the FA's independent panel. The implications for him, as an FA Councillor, are obvious, but such is the hierarchical nature of the club, chairman Bruce Buck has questions to answer.
Transition must be accelerated, if the stain of recent events is to be eradicated. Terry's influence is waning, and though Frank Lampard equalled a club record with his 129th Chelsea goal, his career is in its dotage. Cole, too, is unlikely to be offered a new contract.
It cannot be business as usual, though the infamous "JT Captain Leader Legend" banner remains. It has been moved to the Shed end, and was ruffled by a gentle breeze on a sunny afternoon, but the man himself remained firm.
The captain's defiance, the hallmark of a career which lurches between extremes of fulfilment and self-destruction, generates understandable admiration. Yet there was a subtle change to the tenor of the occasion. It had a different dynamic from last week's inspirational response to adversity, at the Emirates. The gestures were similar – no appearance is complete without Terry battering his breastbone – but the backcloth was different. The wider world is more sympathetic to another slogan: JT Improbable, Implausible, Contrived.
It beggars belief Cole has been allowed to report for England duty, after a cosy chat with Uncle Roy. If Cole expected neutrals to be convinced by his pre-game tweet – "Game time! Can't wait to get back to what I love doing, playing football" – he was sorely mistaken.
The Norwich fans indulged in a little low-key booing, but the relative decency of their response signalled the novelty value of their participation in the Premier League pantomime. Right on cue, the Matthew Harding stand reminded them that Cole "tweets when he wants".
The full back has never given any indication that he understands his responsibility to his audience, the parents who shepherded young children, of both sexes, through the subterranean scrum of the District Line.
They are the future. Terry and Cole will soon be consigned to the past.Reuse content