FA clears Ashley Cole to reach 100 cap milestone for England despite tweet
Defender set to win 100th cap next week despite getting FA charge for misconduct
Roy Hodgson has decided that he will not punish Ashley Cole further for his Twitter attack on the Football Association and the player will be told that he is available for selection for Friday's World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
Hodgson is expected to confirm today, at the official opening of St George's Park, the FA's new football centre, that Cole will be disciplined through the normal FA procedures – he was charged yesterday – but that it will not affect his availability for England.
Whether Cole plays on Friday is another matter, given that Hodgson could well rest some of his big names against a nation that is placed last in the Fifa rankings and has won just one game in its entire history. If the 31-year-old does pick up his 99th cap on Friday, however, he is almost certain to reach his century in the next qualifier against Poland four days later – becoming only the sixth man in English football history to do so.
Hodgson would have been within his rights to leave Cole out of the team for San Marino after the player described the FA as a "#BUNCHOFTWATS" on Twitter on Friday, in response to the independent regulatory commission's damning judgment on his evidence in the John Terry racial abuse verdict.
There are many within the game who feel that Cole would benefit from being disciplined at the England manager's behest. There have been discretionary punishments in the past, such as the removal of the captaincy from Terry, on two occasions, and Fabio Capello's decision to delay Andy Carroll's senior call-up after he failed to report for an Under-21s camp.
Cole was charged with misconduct by the FA yesterday over his tweet which was, the governing body said, "improper and/or brought the game into disrepute". He is likely to be fined. Rio Ferdinand was fined £45,000 for responding on Twitter to a post that described Cole as a "choc ice", a racially charged insult.
Liverpool's Jonjo Shelvey, 20, was called into the senior England squad for the first time, with Frank Lampard an injury doubt. The midfielder is ineligible to play for the Under-21s in the first leg of their European Championship qualifier against Serbia on Friday because he is suspended.
Lampard's injury raises questions over who will captain the side on Friday, with Steven Gerrard suspended. In Lampard's absence, the most likely candidate would be Joe Hart. Wayne Rooney has been captain in the past but his credibility has been affected by the Montenegro red card earlier this year.
The Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand has also been called up to replace the injured Kieran Gibbs. The England players met up at the £105m St George's Park in east Staffordshire yesterday and will train there today in front of the media, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in attendance to perform the opening ceremony.
The team will still prepare at Arsenal's London Colney headquarters on Thursday and stay over at their traditional Grove hotel base on Wednesday and Thursday night. On Monday, they will fly to Warsaw for the qualifier the following day against Poland, who discovered yesterday that their captain, Jakub Blaszczykowski, will miss the game with an ankle injury.
Gary Neville, one of Hodgson's coaches, said yesterday that the Stoke captain, Ryan Shawcross, uncapped and selected in only his second England squad, was an example to young players. Neville said: "Any kid who has a dream should look at Ryan Shawcross maybe more than people at the highest elements of the game.
"He is a great story and the fact he is in the England squad this week is something I am proud of. I remember playing with him when he was 16. He was a raw talent but someone who really wanted to make it. He wanted to use the last ounce of his energy to become a professional footballer.
"He had to leave Manchester United to get his chance. Not giving in and continuing to fight is a huge strength and he has been absolutely fantastic for Stoke. He deserves his opportunity this week and I am looking forward to seeing him because he represents the best of attitude, of working hard to get where you want."
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