Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Let’s be Frank, it’s time for Lampard to get his finger out

England v Germany. Mouthwatering. It’s a fixture that brings back so many memories. Most of them bad for England.

One of the exceptions is of course a game at Wembley 44 years ago.

Another is a 5-1 victory in Munich in 2001.

That match will forever be remembered for Michael Owen’s stunning hat-trick. It should also be noted for a magnificent performance from a young lad called Steven Gerrard.

He was 21 then, making waves with Liverpool and showing potential for England after making his international debut the year before.

That night in Munich he came of age for his country, running the midfield, scoring a sensational goal and creating Owen’s third and final strike.

Since then Gerrard has been a regular in the England side, though his performances have often disappointed in comparison to his Superman efforts for Liverpool.

Things have changed lately though because following a disappointing club campaign, Gerrard is now performing much better for England.

He’s still not at his breathtaking best, but he’s been the most consistent of England’s attacking players in what has been an alarmingly inconsistent tournament for Fabio Capello’s side.

And this despite playing out of position, wide on the left of midfield.

Gerrard will relish taking on the Germans again and it’s a fair assumption that the England captain will inspire on Sunday in Bloemfontein — after all the bigger the game, the better he tends to play — but he’s going to need help.

And not just from James Milner and Jermaine Defoe, who created and scored the crucial winning goal against Slovenia on Wednesday.

For starters his great pal Rooney needs to start delivering. There were signs in the Slovenia game that Rooney and Gerrard were starting to gel in this tournament, but the former is not on the latter’s level just yet. I’d expect that to change on Sunday.

A bigger question mark remains though against the name of Frank Lampard.

Prior to the tournament there was that old debate about whether Gerrard and Lampard could function together in the centre of midfield.

Capello gave them the chance in the opening match against United States, but while Gerrard scored and earned a seven out of 10 performance, Lampard was anonymous.

Despite that it was Gerrard who was pushed out to the left to make way for the returning Gareth Barry with Lampard staying in the middle for the match with Algeria. That worked well didn’t it with England’s clueless display one of their worst in recent memory.

They were much improved against Slovenia but now that England are in the knockout stages, all the top guns must start firing. And that includes Lampard who, while praised royally by the English press, was average at best on Wednesday.

He has a bit of a love affair with the English scribes, so few criticise him, but he’s an intelligent enough guy (he can speak Latin you know) to realise that he needs to raise his game.

Already this World Cup has been compared to that of 1990 when England made a stuttering start before eventually reaching the semi-finals, where surprise, surprise they lost to Germany on penalties.

In the last 16 match back then David Platt scored a stunning winner against Belgium.

I’ve always regarded Lampard as a classier version of Platt, in that you need goals from both for the national team to truly benefit from their inclusion as they lack the all round game of say, a Bryan Robson, Paul Gascoigne or Gerrard.

Lampard has it in his locker to score against Germany, but he has to get it out.

England’s main men before this World Cup started were considered John Terry, Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney.

Terry, excellent against Slovenia, has already made a big impression in South Sfrica on and off the pitch. Gerrard is delivering with the promise of more to come.

And it’s just a case of waiting for Rooney to explode as even the German coach Joachim Low concedes.

That leaves Lampard. To be Frank, he needs to start showing his worth.

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