Roy Hodgson backs Ashley Cole for 100 England caps after Twitter rant
Left-back will be given an opportunity to earn his 100th cap in Poland, England manager hints
Ashley Cole has been handed an opportunity to pass the 100-cap mark for England and redeem his reputation over the next 10 days after being assured a controversial outburst on Twitter will not cost him his international future.
The Chelsea defender currently has 98 caps, and England's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino at Wembley on Friday and Poland in Warsaw the following Tuesday provide both Cole and the England camp with the possibility of a much-needed "good news" story.
Cole certainly needs one after posting an ill-advised tweet in which he used an expletive to criticise the Football Association for questioning the integrity of his evidence in the disciplinary hearing that ended with Chelsea teammate John Terry being found guilty of racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand.
The left-back has since apologised for his comments and had already been included in the England squad. But the controversy, which will see him fined by both club and the FA, raised doubts over whether Roy Hodgson would pick him for the qualifiers.
However, it is believed the England manager has told Cole he remains in his plans, and so a potential century of caps for the 31-year-old should be something to celebrate regardless of his off-field reputation.
"What is more worthy of consideration is the fact that Ashley, at a relatively young age and with more football left in him, is likely to get his 100th cap very soon, and that is fantastic," Hodgson said. "I don't think we should ever underestimate the value of that.
When I was younger, 100 caps was a rare occurrence. My close friend Giacinto Facchetti played 16 years for Italy and only managed 92," he added. "When I was in Sweden, Bjorn Nordqvist had 96 and we thought at the time that was quite incredible.
"Now, players do get over 100, especially in the Asian countries, and you see goalkeepers getting into the 120s, but for an outfield player, a left-back, to reach 100 is incredible," said the England boss. "He has done it with consistency and there is no reason why he cannot set his sights higher."
It would be fair to say Cole is not used to such public acclaim and affection. Although regularly described as one of the best left-backs in the world, he has struggled to win hearts and minds off the pitch.
Hodgson said: "Every player has the right to be true to their own feelings, and his is that he will do his talking on the field.
"His attitude is 'I don't want to give lots of interviews, I want to be judged as a pure footballer'.
"I for one respect that wholeheartedly and have found him to be an excellent professional and a very, very enthusiastic and important member of the group, and I'm looking forward to working with him for a period of time to come."
The next two games will also be important for another of England's more experienced players, Wayne Rooney, who is anxious to reignite his international career after disappointing during England's Euro 2012 campaign.
"It's really good to see [Rooney] back so fit and enthusiastic." said Hodgson.
"I said during the Euros that we needed his ability as he is a player of exceptional ability, but we put players like Wayne under an enormous amount of scrutiny and pressure" added the England coach. "The moment he doesn't play like a genius, we want to write him off as being hopeless. That is very unfair."