England midfielder Frank Lampard insists he has never believed himself to be undroppable for the national team and promised to continue to make himself available for Three Lions duty.
Lampard, 33, was left out of Fabio Capello’s starting line-up for Friday’s Euro 2012 qualifying win in Bulgaria, leading to suggestions that the curtain may have been coming down on his international career.
It was the first time he had not started a competitive international when available for four years, but Lampard returned to the first XI for England’s unconvicning 1-0 victory over Wales on Tuesday.
And the Chelsea midfielder believes he can continue to do a job for the Group G leaders, though he knows his place is never guaranteed – refuting claims that have surrounded England team for years about senior players such as himself and John Terry being given preferential treatment even when out of form.
“People like to give off the idea that players are expecting to play every game and we’ve never been like that,” Lampard said. “We’re all professionals and driven, and our egos are only our desire to succeed individually and as a group, and we haven’t quite done that for England.
“It should be competitive and I’ve had phases before where I’ve sat on the bench for England. The furore, I tried to stay away from this week and just tried to keep my head down and concentrate. I don’t mind. I’m very proud to play and I’ll play as long as I can contribute for England – and I feel I can do that.”
Lampard claimed he felt “excited”, rather than threatened, by watching younger midfielders come to the fore in the past year, adding: “It’s very good to see. It’s good to see the Ashley Youngs – I know he’s not completely a young player, but he’s really blossoming at the minute.
“Stewart Downing, the same, on the other side. (Jack) Wilshere’s injured now but, with the squad we’ve got now, there’s some real attacking options, which in great to see. (Chris) Smalling at the back and (Phil) Jones, who I’ve been really impressed with at Man United, it’s something that was maybe missing a year or so ago and people weren’t quite seeing where it was coming from.
“All of a sudden now, we can see these ones sprouting up and that’s great for the fans to see and us to see as a group.”
Unfortunately for Lampard, he did little to suggest on Tuesday night that his best days are behind him, although he was not alone in underperforming.
“We weren’t at our best – it was a very important win,” he said of the victory that left England needing just a point to qualify for the Euro 2012 finals. “A lot of people expected us to win the game comfortably but, having seen Wales get a good performance at the weekend and coming here with nothing to lose as such in terms of the group, I think they were always going to give us a tougher game than expected.
“We weren’t moving the ball probably quite quickly enough to create as many chances as we’d like to. But I suppose you have to be content with a win and take the positives out of the week, as in the two games, and know where we are for the last game, which is the position we wanted to be in.”