Steven Gerrard has pleaded with the Wembley crowd to show respect for Ashley Cole when he wins his 100th England cap against Brazil on Wednesday.
The England captain said it was "very important" for supporters to recognise the "phenomenal" contribution that the Chelsea defender had made to the national team. "If the crowd take a moment to think about what he has given in an England shirt over the last 12 years it's been phenomenal," said Gerrard. "He has been probably the most consistent player I've played with during my time.
"It's going to be Ashley's night if he's picked and the players are certainly going to show him a hell of a lot of support. Let's hope the fans do as well. He deserves to be a 100-cap player, there's no two ways about that."
Cole has been booed by England fans in the past but Gerrard is hopeful they will "give him a fantastic reception" tomorrow. "I think there have been years when he has been the best left-back in the world and we've been lucky to have him. I think the supporters realise that as well."
Gerrard's words were echoed by the England Under-21 coach, Stuart Pearce, who spoke of Cole in glowing terms today as the best left-back in England's history. Pearce, who earned 78 caps in the same position, said: "In my eyes he is the best left-back who has ever played for England.
"What I'd say about Ashley is people don't realise how dedicated he is, but you only realise that when you are on the inside with him in a squad," added Pearce, who admitted that Cole "suffers" for his negative public image.
If Leighton Baines's emergence as an international-class left-back has raised questions about Cole's England future, Pearce went so far as to suggest the 32-year-old might even go on and surpass Peter Shilton's 125-cap record. "I played my last game for England when I was 37 and Ash is a long way away from that."
Pearce's own future with England is open to question as his Under-21s begin their preparations for June's European Championship finals with tonight's friendly against Sweden in Walsall. His contract expires in the summer and he confirmed yesterday he had deferred talks on a new deal until after the tournament in Israel. "I think for both parties we're happy to sit tight and then have a chat in the summer," said Pearce.
Phil Jones (shingles) and Raheem Sterling (dead leg) have withdrawn from Pearce's squad.
While Wembley prepares for the colourful spectacle Brazil will doubtless bring, Gerrard admitted he already had one eye on England's World Cup qualifier in Montenegro on 26 March, which comes four days after the trip to San Marino. Montenegro lead England by two points at the Group H summit and Gerrard said: "You can't help not think about Montenegro. To play Brazil at Wembley is fantastic but there is a little bit in the mind that is already just waiting for the Montenegro game."
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