In a way, it was like nothing had changed.
John Terry was doing all that finger-pointing stuff we have become so used to over the years – urging, cajoling, telling team-mates where they should be and signalling when to step forward. Clad in all black kit, it was just as it has been at many a Chelsea away day in the past.
There were also those obligatory, routine boos from opposition fans. The Chelsea legend proving he’s still got it when it comes to inspiring catcalls.
But of course this was not Chelsea. It was Aston Villa. On a Friday night in the Championship, not the Premier League or Champions League stage he has strutted for more than a decade with such imperious consistency.
There were still clear signs of the organisational strengths and leadership that have characterised a great career in west London, but also unmistakable clues that the former Chelsea skipper is never going to be the force he once was, and that the speed and physicality of the lower division makes this no joyride into the sunset.
He was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty after a clear handball – he has always been expert at making things like that look like an accident – he gave away the free-kick from which hosts Bristol City took the lead. And Terry was treading water when sprightly striker Bobby Reid left him for dead when chasing a lofted ball.
He was also nearly undone by a swift turn inside the box from City striker Famara Diedhiou.
But of course pace has never been his thing and he was still good in aerial duels and had trusty lieutenants in Chris Samba and James Chester to do some of the heavy lifting for him.
Social media posts throughout the game suggested we were definitely seeing an ex-colossus there for the taking, but that was not the way Bristol City boss Lee Johnson saw it. He described Terry as a “warrior”, always ready to put his head in where it hurts and get blocks in.
“He’s one of the best players ever – certainly to put on an England shirt,” Johnson enthused.
Reading between the lines, Villa boss Steve Bruce also accepts he is not going to get the JT who forged such an indelible identity at Stamford Bridge. But he calculates the pluses of accommodating a twilight-years Terry in rebuilding his own team will be worth it.
“He’s doing fine. He’ll get used to it. He’ll get used to the hurly-burly. He’ll be fine, no problems,” Bruce told West London Sport, after admitting his defenders didn’t get to grips with the opposition strikers at the outset.
“It’s never going to be an easy option [coming to Villa]. He realised that when he signed. I don’t think he wants an easy option. If he’d wanted an easy option, he’d have taken the money and gone abroad.
“He wanted a challenge and he knows he has one. But it’s not just what he gives on the pitch – it’s what he gives around the pitch and around the young lads. I’ve surrounded the young ones with really good pros, which I think was important.”
It remains a huge culture shock for Chelsea fans to see the man turn out in another kit. He is the player who has meant most to them throughout the unprecedented glory years. The one element that has remained undimmed, unflinching and ever-present.
But the culture shock will feel very real for Terry too, even if he has found a big club to satisfy his need to keep playing.
At QPR, Rio Ferdinand found it virtually impossible to summon the same drive and desire that underpinned his years at Manchester United.
Ferdinand was not helped by his heart-breaking personal issues, of course, but how do you find the necessary buzz after you have conquered the biggest and most demanding of arenas?
Only time will tell whether, at 36, we are to witness a late-autumn flourish from JT, or a mere footnote to an astonishing career.