Can it really be nine years since neither Steven Gerrard nor Frank Lampard appeared in the England midfield during a competitive game?
The lynchpins of the England side of the last decade, the absence of both of them for the qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia along with injuries to Rio Ferdinand, Darren Bent and Glen Johnson forced England boss Fabio Capello into making changes which won 3-0 against a pedestrian Bulgaria side.
In-form Wayne Rooney found himself surrounded with pace upfront with Ashley Young playing just behind him, Stuart Downing on the left and Theo Walcott on the right. It was no surprise that Rooney bagged a brace of goals on the night.
Capello opted for two defensive midfielders protecting the changed defence, and Gareth Barry partnered Scott Parker in a very effective partnership.
John Terry and Ashley Cole took up their usual positions in defence but Gary Cahill of Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United’s Chris Smalling completed the unfamiliar looking back line.
Cahill in particular will have done his growing reputation as a goalscoring defender no harm at all with his well taken opening goal for England.
Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp will both regret not making decisive bids to sign the Bolton man before the transfer window closed at the end of August.
Smalling had the trickiest job of the evening in defence, with Bolton winger Martin Petrov the source of all their host’s best work and he should have done better with the chances presented to him.
Ultimately, the experimental England side lined up like a Roberto Mancini Manchester City side, with two defensively minded central midfielders allowing a pacy and interchangeable attack with width to cause havoc.
England haven’t been able to field such a side for over a decade due perhaps to the influence of the myriad of attacking central midfielders that England have had over the last decade.
Neither Gerrard, Lampard, nor Paul Scholes or David Beckham before them have been seen as defensively minded players and there had been precious few opportunities for specialist holding midfielders to make their mark for England on a regular basis over the last decade.
The experiment against Bulgaria should not be ditched once the likes of Gerrard or Lampard, or Jack Wilshere get fit though. At least one of Parker or Barry should continue to anchor the England midfield for the rest of the qualifying campaign.
There should in fact be a debate as to whether or not either Gerrard or Lampard even get back into another England squad as Capello enters his last season as England manager.