Fabio Capello insists Frank Lampard remains an important member of the England squad despite hauling the Chelsea man off at half-time during Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifying draw with Switzerland.
It was the first time Lampard, who will be 33 later this month, had played such a peripheral role in a competitive game since he was introduced as a late substitute by former manager Steve McClaren into the defeat to Russia in October 2007 that ultimately cost England their place at the last European Championship finals.
"Frank Lampard is an important player," said Capello. "When he is fresh, he is a really important player."
As Lampard had already scored his 22nd international goal, slamming home a 37th-minute penalty to give the hosts some hope after Switzerland had established a two-goal lead, it made Capello's call even braver.
However, it paid off. Lampard's replacement, Ashley Young, brought England level and if Darren Bent had converted the easiest of chances midway through the second half, Capello's men would have completed a memorable victory.
For Lampard though, the future is uncertain. There was plenty of speculation the Chelsea man was going to be dropped for the trip to Wales in March, only for Capello to have second thoughts.
But with Jack Wilshere now established as a key member of Capello's starting line-up, Scott Parker proving to be effective in the midfield holding role and Steven Gerrard due to return from injury ahead of the August friendly with Holland at Wembley, there is doubt over how many more caps Lampard will add to his present tally of 86.
"He has a big personality on the pitch and he scores goals. When he is in a good moment of form, he is a good player," he added.
The problem, according to Capello, was acute tiredness which he claimed affected many of his players. "He played a lot of games," said the England coach. "I saw him and he was not fresh like the other players. I decided to make a change because of this."
Capello also observed tiredness in Jack Wilshere, so maybe it is just as well Arsene Wenger's pleas about Arsenal's teenage midfielder not going to the forthcoming European Under-21 Championships were heeded. "They trained really well," said the Italian. "But a game lasts an hour and a half. It is not my idea they are really tired. You can see it on the pitch."
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