England’s World Cup qualification campaign is live and exclusive on Setanta Sports. Here, Frank Lampard tells us why, this time, the Three Lions are going to roar…
Frank, England didn’t qualify for Euro 2008. What do you think went wrong?
Results don’t lie and we just didn’t play well enough. There was no single reason for it, we just weren’t good enough as a team. Our mistakes got punished and we didn’t play well enough in all the qualifying games to go through. In parts we looked very good. When we beat Russia convincingly at home I could only have seen us go through, but we didn’t.
During the campaign, and even now, you’ve been on the receiving end of boos from the England fans. How does that affect you?
Fans are entitled to say whatever they want as they pay money at the gate to watch you. I think my record for England has been good but obviously I was as desperately disappointed not to qualify as the most committed England fan. All the players were the same. We all desperately want England to win and do well. But I will never understand someone who goes to a game and boos their own team. It doesn’t help anyone.
Given the booing, do you still actually enjoy playing for England?
Of course. Wearing the England shirt is without doubt the proudest moment in your career. Nothing beats playing for your country. We have not been helped by the negative feeling which has emerged from the fans. I’ve been booed personally and the whole team got booed during the Croatia game. You can understand the frustration of the fans but it doesn’t help.
How do you think England would have fared had you qualified for the Euro 2008 finals?
Competitions and big tournaments can be won by quite a few teams even though the same countries, by and large, do well. Greece won the previous European championships so outsiders do win sometimes. All we know is we have some world class players and on our day we can give any side in the world a good game, so it was obviously a massive blow not to make it to the finals. But we have to rectify it. We have to put it right and all the players will do everything they can under the manager to get it right and to qualify for the next World Cup.
Fabio Capello is now the England manager. How does he compare to the previous manager, Steve McClaren?
Fabio Capello has shown what he can do in football by winning trophies wherever he has managed. He has proved himself a winner everywhere he has been. He certainly has the kind of personality that is good for England. Fabio Capello is like Jose Mourinho in that he has an aura, something special which marks him out against other coaches. He has won at the very highest level and you can compare him to Mourinho in that sense and that is very exciting for me and for England. He’s a proven winner. The credentials for the new England manager are he must have won trophies at the top level and he has done that. He has won titles in two of the top leagues in the world. He’s such a big name and brings charisma and a sense of leadership to the job.
Capello has talked about restoring confidence among the players. Do you see any signs of this happening?
Fabio Capello is a charismatic personality and a born winner and that’s what you want in a coach. He is a fantastic man-manager. It excites me that the manager is very tactically aware and that is something that we are used to at Chelsea. In the last few years we have shown we are able to adapt and change mid-game to give ourselves the best chance of winning and with the success Fabio Capello has had, he clearly has that ability as a coach. It’s the European style of football and hopefully, that will improve us as individuals and as a team. You need to be an intelligent player to take those things on board and apply them on the pitch. He has a reputation of being a strict disciplinarian and I think that can only be good. A lot has been said that the team is undisciplined and now we’re going to get kicked into shape but it’s not like that at all. If you’re an England player – and we have top players here – then you enjoy discipline and you just want to win.
Given the wealth of talented English midfielders, how do you rate your chances of securing a regular first team spot?
You will follow the manager’s instructions – whatever he says – to get the team going in the direction of winning matches. I don’t pick the team. I hope it does mean a clean slate. It’s definitely a fresh start. The manager has come from outside English football and that helps. Everyone will be trying to impress and everyone is on an even keel and that means everyone has a chance to show what they are worth to England. We needed someone of his stature, especially after the disaster of not qualifying for Euro 2008. We must now all look forward and I hope – and believe – Fabio Capello is the right manager to take us forward. It was a very good appointment. I didn’t buy into the whole idea that we must have an English-born manager. As far as I am concerned, the only must is that we have to have the best person for the job and he certainly is that.
How do you rate your opponents in England’s World Cup qualifying group?
Croatia, it goes without saying, are a good team. But whatever the opposition I think it is fair to say that if we perform to our best we will go through the group. We have to make absolutely sure we are 100 per cent for every game.
Will England qualify?
I think if we perform anything like our best we will get through the group, but no qualifying group is ever easy and this one is certainly going to be tough. We have to play to our strengths and get through the group.
Who are your closest friends in the England set-up?
Obviously I see a lot more of the Chelsea lads, but I am friends with everyone in the England team. We all just want to win for our country.
Do you prepare any differently for international matches to domestic games?
No, not really. The type of football might be a bit different but I try 100 per cent in every game I play, for club or country.
Which young English players do you expect to make the biggest impact on the international scene in the future?
There are so many good players around it would be difficult to pick out any individuals. We are very lucky in this country to have so many young players all trying to play for their club and country. We have a lot of talent in this country and hopefully some good youngsters can start getting through to the national side and make an impact.
Would you ever retire from international football to extend your club career, as Paul Scholes and Jamie Carragher did?
I’ve not really thought about it. I don’t think so, but all players have a right to choose their own options.