Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Frank Lampard and John Terry: The End Of an Error For England?

SO farewell then Frank Lampard and John Terry. England’s unnecessary stars have finally fallen, perhaps never to rise again internationally. And they can blame nobody but themselves.

Lampard is 32 and has 83 caps. Terry is 29 and has 65 caps. They’d have two more each after the first Euro 2012 qualifiers over the past five days, but Lamps went off for his hernia operation over the weekend and Terry pulled out with a hamstring problem.

And unless I’ve read the signs wrong, that could be it for the pair of them. Together they have lifted Chelsea to great heights, including last year’s Premier League title. We loved seeing two Englishmen at the heart of the expensively assembled Blue Machine.

But when the pair of them decided they weren’t fit enough to play against Bulgaria and Switzerland – though Carlo Ancelotti reckons they might be ready for West Ham on Saturday - did they really know they were effectively registering their international retirements?

Before the World Cup this would have been unthinkable. Lampard regularly scores 20 goals a season from the midfield at Stamford Bridge, where Terry is the leader and immovable rock.

But for England, there have always been question marks. Lamps never learned to sit comfortably alongside Stevie Gerrard in midfield, Terry never quite managed to look imperious at international level, despite the captain’s armband.

Then, when boss Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the captaincy over the Wayne Bridge scandal in February, international relations began to sour. For both of Chelsea’s superstars. With Lampard and Terry both suffering on the domestic front (along with any number of their team-mates, including Peter Crouch, Ashley Cole and, it turns out, Wayne Rooney), the World Cup was (in case you missed it) an unmitigated disaster for all.

Capello, unfairly, was the man who took the blame for players unfocussed and troubled at the Royal Bafokeng Complex. The press corps turned on the Italian,accusing him of a lack of tactical acumen – and a lack of English.

But how can you have a go at Capello now, after a 4-0 drubbing over Bulgaria at Wembley on Friday night was followed by an emphatic 3-1 win in Switzerland, their toughest opponents in a modest qualifying group?

Now, rightly, Terry and Lampard can be safely cast as the scapegoats. Could it be a coincidence they both pulled out of the opening qualifiers? I guess so. But maybe they saw this coming.

At centre-half, where one goal was conceded in 180 minutes of Euro 2012 qualifying, a combination of the now-injured Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott and, emphatically, Phil Jagielka, impressed us all.

Would Capello really take a backward step and stick Terry and Rio Ferdinand back in there?

And in the midfield, captain Gerrard appeared to thrive without Lamps. With Gareth Barry next to him in the middle, he expressed his satisfaction afterwards in no uncertain terms. And everybody with a lap-top took that to mean: Nobody missed Frankie boy.

So it’s done. England can win without Chelsea’s Blues Brothers. No need to mend something that isn’t broken. End of.

And from what I hear, the England camp will be a more peaceful place without them.

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