By Timothy Collings
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (Reuters) - Frank Lampard returned to the question which has vexed him -- and many England supporters -- for years and predicted he could finally make a partnership with Steven Gerrard work in the World Cup.
After two years of progress and success with Gareth Barry playing a central and left-sided holding role, England may have to reshape their midfield if Barry is unfit following a late-season injury.
Gerrard and Lampard are individually two of the most talented midfielders in world football but every time they have been paired up at international level the result has invariably been ineffectual.
"We can make it work," said Lampard Saturday in answer to suggestions that, with Barry injured, he would be combined with the new England captain in a central partnership.
The 31-year-old goal-scoring midfielder said he was sure manager Fabio Capello would devise a playing system that worked if Barry was unfit to face the United States in their opening Group C game next Saturday, June 12.
Barry, 29, has emerged as a key holding midfielder under Capello's management but trained on his own Saturday as he struggled to regain full fitness after an ankle injury last month.
With Barry in the team, Capello has been able to pair him on the left of Lampard in central midfield and deploy Gerrard in a wider position on the left.
Capello has admitted that he is concerned about Barry's condition and said Friday that he would prefer to leave him out of the England team until he was 100 per cent fit.
This comment signaled a likely reunion for Gerrard with Lampard, the new vice-captain, in a partnership that has rarely worked well because of the players' apparently incompatible styles at the heart of the team.
But Lampard, whose freedom to attack has often been curtailed when playing with the buccaneering Gerrard, stressed that in his view two established and intelligent international players should be able to work it out.
Speaking to reporters at England's training base at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, Lampard admitted he was frustrated at having to answer questions, again, on the issue.
"I do get fed up with it, a little bit, yes," he conceded. "It has been quiet on that for a while. In fact, I've had a two-year break from it but I think it's back now isn't it?
"I don't know but really it's the manager's decision. We, the players, have got a lot of faith in him and so have the public who have seen our resurgence as an international team in the last two years.
"So, I think we'll leave it to him. I certainly believe we can play together -- in whatever shape or form I don't know but let's leave it to him. I believe we can.
"We are two intelligent players and we play successfully for our clubs and we should be able to play together.
"It's very important that we work on it but it should work. The manager may have certain ideas for some games and certain ideas for others.
Lampard said he hoped that if he and Gerrard played together, there would be a positive approach to their partnership.
"We don't want to be negative, we always try to be positive from the start and we tried in the second half against Japan (in England's last warm-up game won 2-1) to inject energy in the game because that is what the team lacked.
"We have no negative thoughts. We hope we can do it and play well and then, I think, everyone will be positive about it."
(Editing by Jon Bramley)