As Frank Lampard lingered a few yards from the Wembley exit late on Tuesday night to talk about a fairly torrid week in his England life, he did not know that his performance with Gareth Barry against Wales had strengthened Fabio Capello's resolve to install far younger men into his midfield. But there was an undisguisable awareness that his age is beginning to tell against him.
"As when you are young, you shouldn't be ruled out because of your age and I think it's the same the other end of the age scale," said Lampard, whose prospects of making 100 caps look considerably slimmer considering Capello's analysis of how his 87th played out.
"As long as you are showing the energy and desire to play and produce quality for your clubs every week, and when you come here, then I think he'll pick you," Lampard added.
That's certainly the logic Capello has always applied, although his feelings about the side's performance against Wales suggested that it may not do in the future. Capello's feelings next May if the 33-year-old enjoys a strong season with Chelsea may yield a very different story.
Lampard has been on the wrong end of too many debates about the significant difference between great footballers and footballing greats to be anything but sanguine about the obituaries which were written for him last Saturday — and which will continue this morning. "I'm actually of an age now and a maturity where I have been in this situation before, post-World Cup 2006 and stuff like that," he said. "It is much easier to take when you get that little bit more mature about things."
Indeed, it was instructive to compare his demeanour last night with that in Baden-Baden afte England's World Cup exit five years ago, after his own poor tournament.
"I am a harsh critic of myself but when criticism comes from outside and I feel it is a bit unjust it gets my back up," he said back then. "After all I've done in the last two years I think I deserve a little bit of respect and when people come along who want to knock me down I do feel a little bit peeved."
Late on Tuesday, he just grinned when the doubts about his longevity were mentioned. "What do you reckon?" he shot back, when asked if they irritated him.
Lampard has certainly fielded more stick than most England servants of his generation – a combination, surely, of West Ham prejudice and an inverted snobbery about the player himself. In the unreconstructed football world, fans don't care for articulate young men with A grades in Latin who have embraced the metrosexual image.
After the negative scrutiny he has endured, Lampard is clearly not going to go gently into that good night Capello might be preparing for him, internationally.
"I understand that at 38 to 40 years of age I certainly won't be playing for England but I'd rather be sitting on the settee thinking I gave everything to play while I [could], rather than thinking that I ducked out and could have done my country a bit more. That's just how I feel," he said.
- More about:
- Fabio Capello
- FIFA World Cup
- Frank Lampard
- French Football
- Premier League
- Shane Williams