Frank Lampard was left out of a competitive England starting line-up for the first time since 2007 as Fabio Capello adopted a bold approach for this evening’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Bulgaria.
Taken off at half-time in June, when England fell behind against Switzerland, Lampard found himself surplus to requirements at the Vasil Levski Stadium as Capello paired Gareth Barry with Tottenham new-boy Scott Parker in central midfield.
It was an experience Lampard had not suffered in a game that mattered since England lost to Russia in Moscow nearly four years ago, in what turned out to be a pivotal result in the Three Lions’ failure to reach Euro 2008.
It was a better night for Manchester United’s Chris Smalling, who was handed his debut after impressing Capello this season since his shift from central defence to the right-back role.
However, there was no place in the Italian’s starting line-up for Smalling’s Red Devils team-mate Phil Jones, who was overlooked in favour of Gary Cahill as Capello opted for the Bolton man’s additional experience to partner skipper John Terry.
Smalling did have a couple of United colleagues alongside him though, as Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young were both selected.
As expected, Darren Bent was ruled out by a groin injury, so Young partnered Rooney in attack with Stewart Downing asked to fill a wide role, along with Theo Walcott, who survived despite making critical comments about Capello in his recently-published autobiography.