There was confusion at the Football Association when Frank Lampard was named as England captain for tomorrow night's friendly against Republic of Ireland before Roy Hodgson admitted that the job was in reality to be performed by Ashley Cole, who had accepted it on the proviso that he did not have to attend press conferences.
Cole, 32, will be presented with a commemorative "golden cap" in recognition of his centenary of games for England, which he passed in the friendly against Brazil in February and accepted the offer to captain the side at Wembley. However, it was Lampard who accompanied Hodgson to his three set-piece press conferences for radio, television and newspapers this afternoon.
Having first said that Lampard was captain for the game in his press conference with television reporters, Hodgson later admitted that in reality it would be Cole who would do the job – apart from the press conferences. In order to clarify the point he recorded a second interview with Sky Sports News in which, in response to the question of who was to captain the side he answered Cole, instead of Lampard.
Cole's reticence to speak to the press is long-standing and he has not done so on England duty since the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. Remarkably he has often managed to cause just as many problems for press departments at Chelsea and England in spite of the fact that – along with Aaron Lennon – he is the only high-profile player in the country who does not speak on England duty.
Cole does speak to the press occasionally, granting an interview to The Sun two years ago as part of a promotion for a restaurant chain owned by Jay-Z. He speaks to the in-house media at Chelsea and the FA. An audience with him would have been illuminating but would not have strayed into his private life, a line that is clearly drawn. It would certainly have avoided confusion, with as many FA clarifications as there were captains.
As it stands he will lead out England having been the first captain of the national side to be sanctioned by the FA over his use of social media. Cole was fined £90,000 by the FA for calling them a "#BUNCHOFTWATS" on Twitter in October, something he later apologised for personally to the FA chairman David Bernstein.
However, Hodgson said that tradition dictated that a player who had passed 100 caps should captain the side. Hodgson said: "This is a one-off occasion for a player with 100 caps. Frank will get his very soon, hopefully, and I'll expect him to take the team on to the field. This is me wanting to give the guy who has 100 caps the honour to captain his country for one day, without taking on the other roles and responsibilities that comes with the role.
"I find him a charming person, a fantastic footballer, delighted to work with him every day. You can't expect me to speak for him or explain for him. You can't expect him to speak for him, either. The other players, like Frank, were happy to let Ashley have this honour. It was talked about by the other players. Everyone in the squad is happy with this."
Earlier, when speaking to television reporters, Hodgson had said that Lampard was the captain for the game, admitting that it was "a bit more complicated than you maybe would have liked it to be, but that's the way it is." He said that Cole would lead the team out but that Lampard "has always been the captain in Steve Gerrard's absence ... and remains captain of the team".
Gerrard is out after an operation on his shoulder. Lampard said: "I can't speak for Ashley on this. The manager said to me about him having the armband, and I said it was a great idea. He deserved that."
When the situation was finally resolved, Hodgson, not for the first time in his year as England manager, expressed surprise at the furore that had ensued. "It amazes me that such an event can cause such consternation. He has been a fantastic player for two football clubs and England. Normally speaking, the player who gets the 100th cap captains the team. He won't be the first player across the world to get his 100th cap who isn't the captain normally. You're making a bigger thing [of it] than we are."
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