Ashley Cole will not be dropped by Fabio Capello for England's next two games against Slovakia and Ukraine despite being the first senior player to step out of line publicly since Capello took over. The England manager considers Cole's drunken confrontation with police on Wednesday night to be a club matter and has left it with Chelsea, although he disapproves of Cole's behaviour.
Chelsea's interim manager Guus Hiddink said yesterday that Cole, as well as John Terry and Michael Mancienne, who were with him on Wednesday, had been reminded of their responsibilities. Given the delicacies of the club disciplinary process, Capello, who has established himself as a fairly uncompromising man-manager, has decided that it would not be worth prolonging Chelsea and Cole's embarrassment. Fitness permitting, Capello will pick him for the friendly against Slovakia on 28 March and the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine four days later.
Cole will play against Coventry City in the FA Cup quarter-finals today and is likely to be fined £170,000 by Chelsea, the maximum two weeks' wages. He does have the right to appeal under the club rules, but is unlikely to do so. His apology for his drunk and disorderly charge – incurred when he swore at police officers outside a nightclub in Kensington – has convinced Capello that the matter is now closed.
The England manager is prepared for the fact that Cole's behaviour will be a major factor in the build-up to the two games. Capello's captain Terry, and Mancienne, who was picked in the England squad to play Germany in November, have told the club that their involvement in the incident was minimal. Mancienne was not even drinking and drove himself home.
Hiddink said that he had emphasised to the three players "you have to know at a certain time when you have to leave and not get involved in what happened". The Dutch coach added: "I have spoken firmly with him [Cole] about this and there are rules inside this club about going out. I had a firm talk with him and with the rest of the group. What is normal and good in this is that he apologised for his abusive behaviour to the policemen.
"I don't come from an innocent country, it's not my first year in this business, so I have some experience in this. To be honest, it's amazing if you fall once in some trap, try to avoid it the second time, although sometimes there are challenges. There's human reaction, sometimes without justification. It's curious with those players, but it's like that.
"I cannot – will not – control their private life. They must be intelligent people to have succeeded in a big club or in football. I'm not a police officer, nor am I a father figure. I want to speak to them very directly. To hug them sometimes and also be tough. That depends on the situation. I can be firm with them. I don't want to cover up and be a father and accept everything. They are in a fantastic job and have their responsibility to themselves and the club."
Cole was told not to report to training on Thursday after he was released by police – who fined him £80 – at 5.30am that morning. "Mentally, he was a little bit out of order on Thursday, it must be said," Hiddink said. He made his apologies and I think he didn't suffer too much physically and he trained this morning [yesterday] and he was OK."
Hiddink said that he did not mind his players drinking alcohol in moderation, and by that he meant Real Madrid's custom of having half a glass of wine with dinner the night before a game. "Physically, if you drink too much, it's a setback on your physical condition," Hiddink said. "When they have dinner and one glass of wine that's normal. But they have their responsibility. Physically you can harm yourself and then you harm the team as well."
Hiddink revealed that striker Nicolas Anelka is struggling to be fit for the Juventus game next week. Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien could feature at some point today. However, the defender Paulo Ferreira has suffered a cruciate ligament injury and will be out for the rest of the season.