Beckham exclusion 'a warning to all' admits Lampard

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The Independent Football

Frank Lampard said yesterday that England's senior players regarded David Beckham's axing from the team by the new manager, Steve McClaren, as a warning that none of their places were safe.

As McClaren hinted that he could change to a 3-5-2 system for the next Euro 2008 qualifiers against Macedonia and Croatia, the Chelsea man admitted that the new manager's decision had had a major effect on the squad. Lampard said: "I was surprised by what happened to Becks but it's important you know you don't have a divine right to be picked in the first place.

"There have been a lot of people who have said that my place in the team was safe when I was playing well and scoring regularly and others question it when I am not. I never believed it at any point because the moment you drop your guard is the time your place slips from you. The best way to be is to never settle for anything. What happened with David Beckham is a warning because it could easily be me or Wayne Rooney or John Terry. One of the good things about Steve McClaren's attitude is that from the moment you arrive in the squad you are under pressure to perform... and a lot is expected."

McClaren said yesterday that he will not be afraid to change the 4-4-2 system that has been the hallmark of England teams for the last six years as he considers three centre-backs in a 3-5-2 formation in the absence of Owen Hargreaves over the next week.

Before the summer's World Cup finals it would have been unthinkable that an injury to the Bayern Munich midfielder could be the catalyst for so much change, but McClaren said that he may well now have to adapt. An advocate at Middlesbrough of the 3-5-2 formation, which England briefly adopted against Greece in his first match in charge, McClaren said he would explore possibilities before Saturday's qualifier against Macedonia.

"We're thinking long and hard about what we play now Owen is out," he said. "We might have to change it a bit because losing a big player like that just changes the balance of the team."

The absence of England's first-choice holding midfielder, who broke his leg in the Bundesliga last month, means that Scott Parker, Michael Carrick and Phil Neville are all possible replacements for McClaren for Saturday's game at Old Trafford and the trip to Zagreb to play Croatia next Wednesday. The 3-5-2 formation was avoided by his predecessor, Sven Goran Eriksson, but McClaren said: "I'm not averse to changing systems."

With Andy Johnson injured, Wayne Rooney back and Peter Crouch's winner against Macedonia last month making it 11 goals in 14 games for the Liverpool striker, it seems inevitable that those two will start. Crouch's form for England is beyond reproach, but he has completed 90 minutes for his club just once since the defeat of Macedonia.