CHANGE is in the air for England, it would seem, but Frank Lampard is one element of previous regimes that manager Roy Hodgson is not so keen to dispense with just yet.
Hodgson has proven willing to effectively end the international career of Ashley Cole, see through his warning that Jermain Defoe’s move to Toronto might harm his World Cup prospects, and do without mainstays of the qualifying campaign such as Tom Cleverley.
He has also plumped for a youthful 23-man squad, among which a quarter of outfield players have fewer than five caps and boasting the exciting if raw talents of Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling.
But he emphasised yesterday that Lampard, who has 35 years on the clock but 103 caps to go with it, has an important role in a midfield that would quickly look extremely callow should an injury befall captain Steven Gerrard.
Lampard, Gerrard and James Milner aside, the six remaining players listed as midfielders in Hodgson’s squad – Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley – have an average of 7.5 caps each.
“Frank has been the captain of the team at times during my two years and vice-captain to Steven Gerrard,” said Hodgson. “He still plays a very important role in his club side and his leadership qualities and ability as a player mean he fully justifies his position.”
Hodgson will rely heavily on Gerrard’s leadership, following a largely excellent campaign from the Liverpool skipper, and dismissed concerns that the player might have suffered psychologically from his part in his team’s surrender in the Premier League title race.
“I have no concerns whatsoever. I am very disappointed for him, of course, and I share his disappointment,” he added, referring to Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea last month.
“I was very sad that he feels responsible for a mistake, which I think was not a mistake from him as an individual footballer but a moment in a game of football where he slipped over.
“Unfortunately, he slipped over at the wrong time and a goal was scored whereas in the game I saw when they played Manchester City, Vincent Kompany slipped, missed a header to give Liverpool victory and it could have been the other way round.”
Lampard’s selection meant no place in the 23 for Manchester United’s Michael Carrick, who said his demotion to the standby list “hurt”, though Defoe, who moved to Major League Soccer in January, went further.
“I feel devastated,” he said. “I didn’t really feel I had to sell myself to the manager. I had a situation at the 2012 Euros where I lost my dad and I had decision to make. But I chose to go back out to [the tournament] because I know how important it is to play for your country.”
7.5 Average caps of England midfielders without Gerrard, Lampard and Milner
ENGLAND PLAYERS WITH WORLD CUP PLAYING EXPERIENCE