England: Frank Lampard upbeat despite withdrawals
England are reeling following the withdrawals of Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill and Rio Ferdinand since Roy Hodgson unveiled his squad for the World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro last Thursday.
As John Terry has retired from international duty and both Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones were already ruled out, it has left England to draft Joleon Lescott, Steven Caulker and Steven Taylor into their plans. “It’s a dream come true,” said Taylor yesterday. “I am so happy to have received a call-up to the full squad.”
Taylor had never been part of an England senior squad before, Caulker’s single cap came in the friendly against Sweden in November and Chris Smalling, the only centre-half remaining from Hodgson’s initial party, has made just four appearances, the first two of which were at right-back.
As Lescott is out of favour at Manchester City it is little surprise there is so much concern, if not for Friday’s assignment in San Marino, the world’s worst team, then definitely for the match against Group H leaders Montenegro in Podgorica next Tuesday.
Lampard does not share those worries though. The veteran Chelsea midfielder is adamant England have the quality to cope. “I believe in this squad,” said Lampard.
“We have been in these situations before in different positions but we have got depth in terms of the younger players coming into the squad.
“We have to believe in them. We have to make sure we are not upset in any one position.”
The loss of Ferdinand in particular is a blow, not just in terms of not having a player with such vast experience available, but also hinting at problems of communication within the England coaching department.
And while Lampard is not prepared to spend too long bothering about such matters, he does accept his former West Ham team-mate is at the top of his game just now. “Rio is a top-drawer player,” said Lampard.
“He is certainly not finished. You see his performances, particularly against Madrid away. He was absolutely outstanding. He is producing performances like that every week.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of his future but the way he is playing at the minute, he is one of the top performers in the Premier League.”
And though some have suggested there is no way back now for the 34-year-old given the treatment programme he has to undergo, Lampard does not view it the same way. “All players manage themselves differently,” he said. “Some will go in the gym for one or two days after a game, others might not train the full session.
“That happens at club and international football.
“I honestly don’t know what is going to happen with Rio but it is good that both sides have said it was a positive meeting. It is not anything for me to worry about. It is about Rio being in the right form to get picked and for the manager to pick him.”
Lampard has managed that particularly well despite the ongoing uncertainty over his Chelsea future. On Sunday he scored his 200th goal for the Stamford Bridge outfit, leaving him just two behind Bobby Tambling’s all-time club record.
“I have had a nice couple of days to reflect on it,” said Lampard. “I have been stuck on 199 for a while. It was not a figure I ever thought I would get near but having done so, I wanted to reach 200.
“I have been very fortunate to play at Chelsea for a long time. I am proud of my whole career but to reach that landmark was fantastic for me.”