In Depth

Ashley Cole is made England captain for the night (sort of)

Cole wants to lead the team out - but doesn't turn up for the pre-match press conference

A BALL hasn't even been kicked and already England's friendly against the Republic of Ireland tonight has descended into what the Daily Mail calls a "farce". The hoo-ha centres on the appointment as captain of Ashley Cole in recognition of his reaching 100 caps.

Despite the fact that Cole actually reached the landmark against Brazil in February, and despite the fact the Chelsea left-back has been fined £90,000 by the Football Association this season for calling them "a bunch of twats", he's been given the honour by England manager Roy Hodgson.

The Sun claims that Hodgson "expected him to turn down" the captaincy, as he has done in the past, but the 32-year-old "stunned" his manager by accepting – though on his terms. The Sun says that Cole took the armband "on the condition he would not fulfil the skipper's duty of speaking to the media".

So instead it was a rather bemused Frank Lampard who faced the press on Tuesday afternoon, and at one point Hodgson added to the general confusion by saying Lampard would captain England in place of the injured Steven Gerrard.

Hodgson later corrected himself, telling reporters: "Ashley will do the coin toss and have the armband on. He is the captain on the night."

Asked why Cole didn't deign to talk to the media, Hodgson replied: "I want to give the guy who has 100 caps the honour of captaining his country for one day without taking on the other roles.

"Frank, who would normally captain the team in the absence of Steven Gerrard, has agreed this is Ashley's night. Frank has fulfilled all the other functions. Ashley wanted to captain the team on the night and let his feet do the talking."

That, as the Daily Telegraph notes, will make a change for a player who in recent seasons has let his foolishness do the talking. "The honour of captaining England on Wednesday will go to a player who has vilified the Football Association, shot a work experience boy, sworn at police and shown such disrespect to a referee that a scandalised FA brought in its Respect campaign," rages the paper.  

While admitting that Cole, who will win his 102nd cap tonight at Wembley, has been England's most consistent player in the last ten years, the Telegraph says "there is displeasure in some quarters of the FA" that Cole has been honoured with the captaincy at a time when they are trying to promote a more positive image of the game at grass-roots level.

The Daily Mirror labels the decision to anoint Cole captain "embarrassing" given his twitter rant last October. After the FA had questioned the reliability of his evidence in defending Chelsea team-mate John Terry in his infamous race row with QPR's Anton Ferdinand, Cole tweeted: "Hahahahaa, well done #fa I lied did I, #BUNCHOFTWATS"

But Hodgson believes Cole's toxic tweet is now in the past. "The matter was dealt with between the chairman and Ashley Cole," said the England manager. "They were satisfied that matter was put behind them. It's not something we've taken into consideration at all." And then Hodgson used a word not normally associated with Cole to describe his new captain. "I find Ashley a charming person," he said, "and I'm delighted to work with him every day."

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