Lampard Revisited

In amongst the latest bout of Roy-bashing, twitter to and fro-ing, and 'Arrying (a term I've invented for somebody claiming Redknapp should have got the job - normally citing his popularity or footballing style), last week's big name who won't be in Poland and the Ukraine has been lost and forgotten. Some would say this represents a fitting end to Frank Lampard's international career - he remains all at sea, lost in the mid-pages of mediocrity. To my mind, though, this is grossly unfair on one of England's key recent players.

In an era where twenty-odd year olds retire from international football and a general stench of detachment from reality hangs around the squad, Lampard has never been bigger than the team (or in this case country). When he was left on the bench, or not given license to play his favoured, if slightly old-fashioned, no. 8 role, he didn't scowlingly retire (looking at you Paul Scholes), and when England fans booed him he responded with more grace and dignity than a certain Wayne Rooney - by getting on with playing football. Those same fans, by the way, had voted him England's best player 2 years in a row not too long before

But despite being a model professional, completely avoiding controversy and being good with the media (captain material in fact), Lampard has been tarnished since 2006 as part of the failed 'golden generation'. Strangely he seems to have suffered even more than most because of the club he plays for, or maybe just because close proximity to John Terry and to a lesser extent Ashley Cole is enough to poison the minds of the average English fan. Ironically despite being England's most prolific penalty scorer ever, he has never really recovered from that miss against Portugal, and while his performances have been mostly average and his scoring record is slightly better than 1 in 4, the 'Fat Frank' moniker and beer-belched, pub noise abuse have maintained a much more prominent level.

Lampard, like Ferdinand in 2010, has seemingly been robbed of his last opportunity to make a real impact at a tournament. I'm discounting 2004, where he was England's top scorer and in the team of the tournament, because he himself would not look upon that as a great success - he recognises the far greater value of a team's achievements. Lampard's Champions League Final performance was notable for its control and precision, the economy of movement and calm creation of space. When Steven Gerrard is spraying 40 yard passes to nobody in particular, having abandoned any kind of short-passing game, and Scott Parker is labouring and clearly unfit, the true cost of Lampard's absence will be felt.

It is now fashionable to retrospectively chastise England as a whole for failing to appreciate Scholes when he was at his peak - like most retrospection this ignores the reality that not only was Scholes past his peak, but he should have been more prepared to play out of position, and then he probably would have got another chance in the centre. A straw poll of England fans/serially grumbling viewers would show that most do not think Lampard should be in the team, and probably not anywhere near it. I wonder if he is about to undergo a Scholes-esque renaissance - an ageing dynamo forced to retreat into Pirlo-territory to conduct and prompt.

If so and the expected post-Euros cull is enacted, any future call would surely be answered positively - for like the truly committed international players of any era (Beckham, Neville) no collection of caps is enough.

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