England manager Roy Hodgson has promised injured duo Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry they still have a future with the national side. The experienced central midfield pair were both ruled out of UEFA EURO 2012 within the space of 72 hours after suffering thigh and stomach problems respectively.
As the duo are both the wrong side of 30, there had been suggestions that their international careers would be in jeopardy if the likes of Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell and Tom Cleverley can shrug off their own fitness concerns.
However, Hodgson has eased their fears by confirming they are still in his thoughts for the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. "I still think they are going to play a part in my plans for the future because they are both quality Premier League and international players," said Hodgson.
"Unfortunately we have had to let them both go. I could see the disappointment in their eyes when it was pretty obvious it was going to be difficult for me to keep them due to the injuries they have suffered."
Hodgson has lost 143 caps from the vital central midfield area and in return got two, in the form of Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, plus a defender in Everton's Phil Jagielka. It all adds to a rather chaotic build-up to EURO 2012, which has not been helped by Scott Parker's search for fitness after a late-season Achilles injury from which he has only just recovered.
"I don't have any concern about Scott other than the obvious one when he came to join us not having played in Tottenham's last few matches. That was going to be a factor but we also knew that we had lots of training time," Hodgson said. "He has taken part in every session and is getting fitter by the day."
The former West Bromwich Albion manager confirmed Parker will start tomorrow's friendly with Belgium at a sold-out Wembley in central midfield alongside skipper Steven Gerrard. In training this morning it appeared an entirely new defence comprising three Chelsea players - John Terry, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole - would be joined by Glen Johnson, with Joe Hart returning in goal.
Hodgson also ruled Wayne Rooney - who is suspended for England's opening two games in Poland and Ukraine - out of a starting berth against the Belgians. "It is in my thinking for Wayne play some part in the game," Hodgson told BBC Radio Five Live. "But my first priority is to have looked at the squad fully in order to pick a team against France.
"I am not really bothered about Wayne playing because I know what he can do for the team. I am not even that bothered if he doesn't come on because his fitness will come on with the training sessions we do. In fact it might help him. But it would be nice if I could find an opportunity to get him on the field."
Andy Carroll may be offered the opportunity to build on last week's encouraging display in Norway, although Danny Welbeck played a full part in today's training session after his recent ankle complaint and is also in contention.
Teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also in the mix following an impressive cameo in Oslo, although it still seems doubtful he will make his first start. "He is working well and training hard," said Hodgson. "He is a bona fide member of the squad so he has as much chance as anyone else of getting into the team, not only for tomorrow but in the future."
While victory in Hodgson's first competitive international at Wembley would obviously be preferable, England's focus is on that Group D opener against France in Donetsk on 11 June. Unbeaten in 20 matches, Laurent Blanc has presided over the rejuvenation of a French team that was at the centre of so much internal turmoil in South Africa in 2010.
Not that Hodgson is scared of facing the old enemy in such an important game so early in his tenure. "France are a good team and are justifiably one of the favourites to win the tournament," he said. "But we are a good team as well and I wouldn't expect the French to be any more scared of us than we are of them."