Ashley Cole England captain role causes confusion

Ashley Cole will lead England out against Ireland to celebrate 100 caps. Picture: Getty
Ashley Cole will lead England out against Ireland to celebrate 100 caps. Picture: Getty
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Roy Hodgson ended up digging himself out of a hole last night after he made a mess of revealing who will captain England for their friendly against the Republic of Ireland.

With regular captain Steven Gerrard out through injury, Hodgson had to nominate a new skipper for the friendly against Ireland and given that Frank Lampard is Gerrard’s deputy, he was the obvious choice.

Ashley Cole was also under consideration, however, given that he is scheduled to pick up his special commemorative 100th cap before the game.

Initially, Hodgson appeared to confirm that Chelsea midfielder Lampard would be skipper for the game, but because it was a special night for Cole, he would have the honour of leading the team out at Wembley.

The England manager said: “Frank has always been the captain in Steve’s absence.

“I appointed him vice-captain, but in actual fact tomorrow I have discussed this and Frank is happy for Ashley to lead the team onto the field in celebration of his 100th cap, which he’ll receive tomorrow.

“It’s actually his 102nd appearance, but he’ll receive the cap tomorrow; so Frank and I are happy that he will lead the team out there. But Frank still remains captain of the team – I’m afraid that’s a bit more complicated than you maybe would have liked it to be, but that’s the way it is.”

Hodgson then confused matters further by saying that Cole would in fact “wear the armband” in the friendly against Giovanni Trapattoni’s side – a sign, of course, that is usually associated with being captain.

“After speaking to Frank and sounding out the other members of the squad... everyone thought it was would be nice if he (Cole) had the armband on and led the team out,” Hodgson added.

“Frank was happy to hand over that honour because we all believe he deserves it; he’s been a fantastic servant not only to Chelsea and Arsenal but England too.”

What Hodgson appears to have tried to say is that Cole will in fact be captain against the Irish, but that Lampard spoke to the media today because the Chelsea defender does not enjoy the attention that comes with speaking to the media on the day before the game – a responsibility usually shouldered by the captain.

“Perhaps he (Cole) is reluctant to stand in front of the media and play the captain’s role,” Hodgson said.

Hodgson then sought to clarify the situation in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live. Hodgson referred to Lampard as the “nominal captain” – ie that he turned up with the England manager to face the media in Cole’s absence. Finally, with the interviewer’s confusion clear, Hodgson was asked the direct question whether Cole would be captain for tomorrow’s game and replied: “Yes”. Lampard thinks Cole is a worthy recipient of the honour. He said: “He very much deserves it, not only because he’s won 100 caps but because of the way he performed over those 100 caps; he’s been the most consistent left-back in football for such a long period of time. It’s the perfect gesture.”

There is no such confusion about who will be the captain Republic of Ireland. Robbie Keane will lead his country out at Wembley and the 32-year-old will win his 124th cap after it appeared his club, Los Angeles Galaxy would deny him the chance to do so after they said he could not travel to Europe.

“For me, it’s fairly simple: I want to play for country more than anything, and it still means as much to me now as when I made my debut at 18 years of age,” Keane said. “That’s certainly never changed.

“I can never understand why players don’t want to play for their country, I find that very hard to take in.

“Since I’ve been in the squad I don’t think I’ve missed many games, to be honest with you. I have missed them through injuries.”