Frank Lampard today confirmed that he was England's new vice-captain. The Chelsea midfielder said he was handed the position by Fabio Capello following Steven Gerrard's elevation to skipper in the wake of Rio Ferdinand's FIFA World Cup™ -ending injury.
"I am vice-captain," said Lampard. “I am very proud of that. Obviously I am very disappointed for Rio. He is a mate. "But what can I do? I shall just try to give my input as a vice-captain."
As the pair grew up in London and emerged through the West Ham academy at the same time, Lampard has always been close to Ferdinand and offered words of consolation to him last night.
We are very close. We always have been. There is that bond from West Ham which is something that has held us together from being young players.
He admitted he felt "sick in the stomach" when he went to see stricken team-mate Rio Ferdinand in his room. The enormity of missing the World Cup with a knee injury was just starting to sink in for Ferdinand when Lampard knocked on his bedroom door. And looking at the mental and physical pain Ferdinand was going through after being denied the chance to lead England at a World Cup was hard to take.
"It made me feel a bit sick in the stomach knowing this happened so close to the tournament," Lampard said. "We are very close. We always have been. There is that bond from West Ham which is something that has held us together from being young players. To see a close mate suffer like that is so upsetting because I know this would have been the pinnacle of his career."
Lampard knew there was a major problem as soon as Ferdinand fell in what he claimed was a "freak" training ground incident. And not even the knowledge he would benefit from the 31-year-old's misfortune by being installed as vice-captain and deputy to new skipper Steven Gerrard could ease the anguish as the worst was confirmed.
"I didn't find it easy to go and see him last night," Chelsea star Lampard added. "We spoke about the injury and how disappointed I was for him. People only see him on the pitch, but in the hotel he is very important as well. "I have been fortunate to be around him since the youth team at West Ham. He has always had that bubbly character. In that sense he is going to be a big loss, even without his ability as a footballer."
Ferdinand is still in too much pain to contemplate going home and may decide to hang around, even though replacement Michael Dawson arrived to a warm handshake from Fabio Capello and was on the training ground less than 24 hours after he took the first call confirming there had been a problem.
Chelsea blues hit South Africa 2010
For Lampard it has been a busy time, given he was also on the phone commiserating with Didier Drogba, who looks certain to miss the Côte d'Ivoire's campaign after breaking an arm against Japan yesterday. With Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel all ruled out, it has been a depressing time for Chelsea's star names, although Lampard is determined England at least must quickly start looking at life with a positive attitude.
"You get nervous for yourself and upset for Rio, there is nothing wrong with that," he said. "But you have to use it as a bit of extra bonding. We trained today at full pelt. Now we have to focus and go forward."
That means preparing for next Saturday's Group C opener against the United States, when Capello has vowed he will not risk Gareth Barry. The Manchester City midfielder went through a solo session this morning and still seems to be an extreme doubt, raising the possibility of Lampard partnering Gerrard in the centre of England's midfield. Immediately all the old arguments about the pair not being compatible are being raised. It is a debate Lampard got bored of hearing before Capello replaced Steve McClaren and changed the entire axis of the team. And not much has changed.
"I do get fed up with it," he said. "It has gone quiet for a while but it is coming back now. We should just leave it to the manager because we have all seen the resurgence of the team in the last two years. But intelligent players should be able to play together and I believe we can."
Despite the pair's obvious attacking tendencies, forging a partnership between them should be easier than John Terry gelling with someone new in central defence. Matthew Upson is the most obvious replacement, given he has started nine of England's last 17 games. But Jamie Carragher, the only other central defender to play a full part in training today, has plenty of experience and Lampard was not entirely dismissive of the idea Ledley King could do the job even though, as was the case today, a large percentage of his training takes place through individual gym sessions.
"Of course you need to work on the training ground and it's not ideal, but Ledley and John are intelligent enough to understand each other," Lampard said.