Ashley Cole will find out today whether Roy Hodgson intends to leave him out of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino as punishment for him describing the Football Association as a “bunch of twats” in a tweet on Friday.
No final decision had been made on Cole as of last night, with the player having assured Hodgson personally that he will be part of the 25-man squad that reports to the new FA football centre, St George’s Park in east Staffordshire, today. The England manager is yet to decide whether he will punish the player by leaving him out of Friday’s game, potentially his 99th international cap.
Last night Hodgson called up the Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, his first inclusion in an England squad, and Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand. Kieran Gibbs has withdrawn with injury and Frank Lampard is a doubt, which raises questions about who Hodgson’s captain will be with Gerrard suspended for Friday’s game.
It would appear inevitable that the governing body will charge Cole with misconduct for his tweet. Hodgson could still choose to punish the player at his own discretion. The conversation between the two men on Friday after Cole’s attack on the FA on Twitter was, it is understood, simply a case of Hodgson checking whether the player was effectively retiring from international football.
There were also strong words from Roberto Di Matteo, the Chelsea manager, who was outspoken about the “high standards” he said the club were entitled to expect of their players. This after the commission hearing John Terry’s race charge verdict delivered a damning statement on the player and the club.
Di Matteo said: “The image of the club is very important to us of course. We have rules and if anybody breaks them there is disciplinary action taken against them. We have standards. We strive to have high standards. Hopefully going forward we can be better in showing those.
“As a club we try to give a good account of ourselves. You guys can help – concentrate a bit more on the football. I personally can’t change that. What I ca n influence is what happens on the training pitch.”
Cole was back on his Twitter account @TheRealAC3 yesterday endorsing fellow tweeters who criticised Alan Shearer. The former England captain said on Match of the Day on Saturday night that Hodgson should take action against the player and drop him for the San Marino game.
Shearer said: “I think the FA can put a big statement out here by actually not fining him but actually banning him on Friday against San Marino. Because we’ve seen players fined £50,000, £60,000, £70,000. That’s not a deterrent to them.
“Stopping them from playing football will be a deterrent. If they do it quickly – which they haven’t done in the case, which has taken 14 months – if they do it in four to five days, I think it puts a big statement out to the rest of the players.”
In response, Cole retweeted a follower’s tweet: “Alan Shearer says @TheRealAC3 needs to be banned for comments. I want his opinion on bans for kicking Neil Lennon in the head. #GlassHouses.”
It referred to the episode when Shearer was controversially cleared by an independent commission having kicked Lennon during a game between Newcastle United and Leicester City in 1998. The decision meant that Shearer could play in that year’s FA Cup final.
The FA found itself drawn into a row over a media briefing with Sunday newspapers which took place before the Cole tweet row last week. Then, Hodgson had said that there was a possibility that Cole could be made captain for the night against Poland a week on Tuesday, potentially the occasion of his 100th cap. It was reported that the FA had then told newspapers not to use those quotations in the aftermath of the tweet.
It is understood that Hodgson was simply being polite in suggesting that Cole could be captain for the game in Warsaw. The England manager had always intended to give the job back to regular captain Steven Gerrard, who will return to the team against Poland after a one-game suspension against San Marino.