Roy Hodgson wants to give controversial Chelsea defender Ashley Cole captain's role for England
England manager will ask veteran if he would like to lead side to mark his century of caps
The England manager, Roy Hodgson, will ask Ashley Cole if he wants to captain England against the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on 29 May, when the controversial left-back is due to receive a commemorative "golden cap" as recognition at reaching the 100-cap milestone with his nation.
Cole, 32, is one of a number of candidates to do the job with regular captain Steven Gerrard due to miss the two end-of-season friendlies, against Ireland and Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, because he has to have an operation on his shoulder. Cole is due to play for Chelsea in two post-season games against Manchester City in the United States on 23 May and then two days later in New York.
Nevertheless, Hodgson is keeping an open-mind on playing those Chelsea and City players in the game against Ireland. It would represent something of a rehabilitation for Cole who apologised personally to Football Association chairman David Bernstein for his "#BUNCHOFTWATS" tweet aimed at the FA, for which he was fined £90,000 in October.
Hodgson said that he thought it unlikely Cole would want to accept the captaincy, even for one game. It carries with it extensive responsibilities to do press conferences which Cole has steadfastly refused to do for some time. "I don't think he regards himself as a leader," Hodgson said. "When I talk of him as a potential captain... it would be a special gesture.
"I will ask him, I think dialogue with the players is very important. They have big careers behind them and you don't ride roughshod over them. You put an idea to them and then ask. He's receiving his cap at Wembley, it's something for us to think about."
Another contender for the captaincy is Wayne Rooney, who Hodgson said is determined to join up with the squad, announced today in spite of his current stand-off with Manchester United over his future. "He knows he is right up there. He has captained England once [under Hodgson] against San Marino in the home game. I know he enjoyed that experience and I am pretty sure there are times when he will captain England again."
Although Hodgson refused to be drawn into the debate on Rooney's future, he said that he had spoken to the player who had assured him of his readiness to play in the two end-of-season friendlies. Rooney's main concern was a possible clash with the birth of his second child, which is due after the end of the domestic season.
"I've spoken to him. I was concerned because you know that his wife is having a baby not long before we meet up. But he was at great pains to assure me that he was really looking forward to playing for England, that it's something that's top of his agenda, and that's enough for me.
"I've no reason to doubt that and no reason to doubt him. I'm looking forward to working with him. But you've also got to allow me to stay out of any debate when it comes to Wayne Rooney and club football."
Hodgson said that he had spoken to Rio Ferdinand before the Manchester United centre-back announced his decision to retire from international football. Ferdinand said that, at 34, it was "right" for him to "stand aside and let the younger players come through".
He said: "The team looks in great shape and there is an influx of young, talented players coming through which bodes well for the future. I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from Under-17s upwards. I have always been very proud to play for England. I would like to wish Roy and the team all the best for future tournaments."
There is little prospect of John Terry being picked to play in the end-of-season friendlies, unless there is a major injury crisis. The Chelsea captain had previously indicated that he would be prepared to play again having withdrawn from the international game in September. Hodgson said that he had spoken to the player in the aftermath of his change of heart and that it would be unlikely that he came back.
Hodgson said: "If push came to shove and we were desperate maybe we would turn to them – but it's a big but, it's a time to move forward. It's time for me to get behind the players who are there. I'm not going to call on younger players necessarily, but to get behind the players I think will be the ones to take us to Brazil and do well for us."
Hodgson is unlikely to experiment much in the two end-of-season games, treating them as preparation for the four remaining World Cup qualifiers in September and October. He once again indicated that he wished to pick a younger group of players. "I think this is the moment," he said. "We have a lot of talented players. Take [Jack] Wilshere for example, he has played 113 minutes in over a year for me but he has a great future.
"Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling plus the Under-21s team with Jordan Henderson who has come on. Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling, Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Ince, we aren't short. We don't need to keep shackling ourselves with what we have done in the past with these great players. We have to take a chance elsewhere."
The West Ham striker Andy Carroll, on loan from Liverpool, will be selected for the England squad today, the first time he has been picked in this calendar year.
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