There was a pessimistic feeling around the Three Lions camp on Wednesday night over the chances of a scan into the injury Lampard suffered during only his second day of training offering good news. And so it has proved.
Manager Roy Hodgson has been informed the tear Lampard sustained would not heal in time for the Chelsea midfielder to feature in any of England’s three group games, the last of which is against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on 19 June.
It left Hodgson with little option other than to tell Lampard he was out. Subject to Uefa clearance, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson will replace the 33-year-old.
However, that in itself tells only half the story. With Gareth Barry also ruled out after suffering a stomach strain in Saturday’s friendly win over Norway in Oslo, Hodgson has now lost 143 caps from his central midfield resources. And, because the England coach took what seemed to be the fairly sensible step of replacing Barry with a defender in Phil Jagielka, instead he has Henderson, who was making only his second international appearance in Oslo.
Indeed, Henderson’s selection as a standby player was questioned by many given he did not have the best of debut campaigns with Liverpool, even if he was usually played out of position by axed boss Kenny Dalglish. “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 in the central midfield area.
“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.”
It puts more significance on the absences of Manchester United duo Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes, although Hodgson last week said the former man didn’t want to be selected if he wasn’t going to get an integral role and felt the latter was probably of the same opinion.
Nevertheless, yesterday’s news puts more weight on to the shoulders of skipper Steven Gerrard, especially as Scott Parker, who will surely partner the Liverpool man in central midfield, only made his comeback from an Achilles injury at the weekend.
Other than Henderson, Hodgson’s only other options are Phil Jones – who occupied a central midfield berth in England’s win over Spain at Wembley in November – and Manchester City’s James Milner, who tends to occupy wider positions.
Considering Wayne Rooney is suspended for England’s opening two games, against France and Sweden, they now face a tough task just to retain a chance of qualification going into the Ukraine game.
Long-term, the news could have severe consequences for Lampard’s entire international career. He will be 36 by the time the next World Cup reaches its conclusion and his place in the squad to face Moldova and Ukraine next September in the first round of qualifiers can not be taken for granted.