It’s official. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has admitted the international partnership with Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has yet to click…
On paper, it looks like a midfield marriage made in heaven. Yet the failure of the Liverpool captain to gel with Chelsea’s Lampard has been one of the major frustrations confronting Sven-Goran Eriksson during the final, stuttering stages of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
Gerrard even admitted that he had feared losing his place in Eriksson’s starting line-up after a lacklustre display in England’s embarrassing 1-0 defeat in Northern Ireland last month.
"I don’t think many players performed and I’m no different," he recalled as England prepared for Saturday’s qualifier against Austria at Old Trafford.
"It was a worrying time in that dressing room after that game. It was the lowest point I’ve had with England."
So dominant for their respective clubs where they are given licence to roam, Gerrard and Lampard have struggled to strike up an understanding for the national side, with neither man slipping easily into the role of holding player.
Eriksson’s failed attempt to introduce a 4-5-1 system in Belfast last month underlined the coach’s difficulties in attempting to employ the two men alongside David Beckham, the captain.
But with the England coach expected to revert to a familiar 4-4-2 against Austria, Gerrard has made it clear he is ready to sacrifice his club role – and with it his natural attacking instincts – for the benefit of England’s World Cup hopes.
"I think I am naturally a little bit more defensive than Frank and he is more forward thinking," Gerrard said.
"That is how it will work but what the manager does want is if one breaks forward for the other one to be disciplined and stay.
"It worked well at times in Euro 2004. Frank’s form was really good in the tournament. But I wasn’t good enough in that tournament.
The idea for me is to get the team to the World Cup and hopefully you will see a different player in that tournament.
"If someone has to adapt and be a little more defensive-minded for the good of the team we need to make sure between ourselves that that happens."
The pair appeared set to become team-mates this summer when Gerrard came close to agreeing a £32m move to Chelsea. But having stayed on Merseyside, the Liverpool skipper has already come up against Lampard in the recent Champions League and Premiership clashes between the teams.
He added: "It is strange. Me and Frank have been kicking lumps out of each other for the past week and now we have got to be best of mates and improve this relationship in the middle of the park. But there is no friction.
"Liverpool versus Chelsea are massive games and you know the tackles are going to be flying in and the tempo is going to be quick but when you meet up everything is forgotten.
"There is a lot of pressure for me and Frank to perform, not just score goals, but perform at this level. Frank is Chelsea’s so-called important player and people say I am Liverpool’s.
"When we come together maybe we are trying to do the same job but the most important thing is to get results for England. It is not about me or Frank Lampard."