Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole has described the emotion of returning from injury in last night's Carling Cup third-round victory over QPR at Stamford Bridge.
Cole was named captain for the 1-0 win and he set up Salomon Kalou's winner just after the break, making it a successful comeback after eight months out with a serious knee problem.
The 27-year-old, an unused substitute against Porto in the Champions League last week, said: "It was an emotional night for me. I can't thank the fans enough. There was a little lump in my throat just warming up against Porto the other night.
"You think people have forgotten you so to come out there and hear them singing my name, it's just brilliant.
"Chelsea are my club. It's the first time I've been captain. That was a nice touch. To captain Chelsea is just unbelievable. I was a ballboy here.
"I know it was the Carling Cup but tonight was one of the biggest games of my career."
Cole was part of an experienced team selected by Carlo Ancelotti. Sam Hutchinson and Fabio Borini were the only two youngsters chosen, with the rest first-team or fringe players.
QPR held Chelsea until the break, then Cole slid Kalou through seven minutes after the restart.
Cole added: "It's been a long wait and is just a stepping stone. It's great to be back but the hard work is still ongoing.
"It's beautiful to be back out there playing football again. It's what I love doing.
"I'm just delighted to be back here. Everyone at the club has been blinding. I want to be part of a successful season."
Chelsea are likely to resist fielding a team of youngsters in the fourth round.
"If you see the size of the squad we have, a lot don't play week-in week-out so it's vital for them to get airtime," said assistant boss Ray Wilkins.
"It's entirely up to the young men to push themselves forward and the two that played have been doing so in the reserves and training.
"We want to win everything we enter. Every side that takes to the field in a Chelsea shirt wants to win the game and the tournament they are playing in. If we can blood a few on the way, all well and good."
QPR boss Jim Magilton was pleased with his side's application.
"We have to use it as a springboard," said Magilton.
"We have a chance of promotion, like 14 other clubs.
"We had a lack of belief in the final third but I was immensely proud of the overall performance."
Magilton, who started with two strikers, added: "I'm not naive but that is the way I thought we could get after Chelsea. We were encouraged against Cardiff in our last game and some players may not get back to Stamford Bridge so I couldn't deny them that by resting them."
Magilton refused to answer questions on owner Flavio Briatore, whose position has been questioned following his role in Formula One's "crashgate" scandal.
"I've never met him," Magilton joked.