ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson has described the loss of midfielder Frank Lampard to injury as a “huge blow” to the team and his plans for Euro 2012.
Lampard ended the season by captaining Chelsea to Champions League victory but on Wednesday pulled his thigh while training and has consequently been ruled out from selection.
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, subject to agreement from Uefa’s medical team, has been called up to replace Lampard but, with Manchester City’s Gareth Barry also unavailable after similarly suffering an injury on the eve of the tournament, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that England’s midfield options have been weakened.
Compounding the absences of Barry and Lampard, Arsenal’s talented Jack Wilshere, a key player under former manager Fabio Capello, is injured, and Manchester United’s experienced Michael Carrick refused to make himself available for selection. Between them they have 170 international caps and Hodgson admits that the departure of Lampard, who possesses 90 of those caps, is damaging.
“It’s a huge blow for the team, especially coming after the loss of another senior player in Gareth Barry,” said Hodgson. “The fact that the doctor cannot guarantee Frank could take part in any of the group matches means we have to replace him.
“Apart from it being a huge blow to me and the team, I’m especially disappointed for Frank himself. He has been in very good form and was looking forward to the tournament. He made a huge contribution towards us qualifying for the Euros so it is cruel to be forced out through injury just before the tournament.”
Hodgson’s honesty will appeal to England coach Gary Neville, who has called for a “realistic” approach towards the team’s ambitions after the “embarrassing” way in which their qualification for major tournaments has previously been celebrated.
Neville was recruited soon after Hodgson’s appointment in May and, having been a prominent member of England’s squads at three European Championships and two World Cups, is sufficiently aware of the ambitious expectations that generally accompany them.
“After qualifying in Italy in 97-98 and then against Greece in 2001-02, it was almost – when you look back now – a little bit embarrassing,” said Neville. “All we’d done is qualify. But it was like we’d reached the World Cup final.
“It’s about showing that humility to say ‘Spain are there, France did win World Cups, Brazil are there’. We are trying to get to them [finals] rather than thinking we are there already just by qualifying for a tournament.
Neville also added that England’s selection of Krakow city centre as their tournament base was chosen to replicate the players’ club conditions.
2002 World Cup: England’s build up is overshadowed by the metatarsal injury suffered by captain David Beckham who, though passed fit, is not at his best. Gary Neville and Steven Gerrard miss out altogether.
Euro 2004: Wayne Rooney injures a metatarsal, contributing to England’s quarter-final defeat to Portugal
2006 World Cup: Rooney again injures a metatarsal pre-tournament and, like Beckham in 2002, plays but fails to impress. Michael Owen suffers a knee injury against Sweden that rules him out for months.
2010 World Cup: Knee injury rules out captain Rio Ferdinand