England

Ashley Cole to captain England

FOX Soccer: England getting ready for Republic of Ireland friendly.
FOX Soccer: England getting ready for Republic of Ireland friendly.
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Ashley Cole will captain England against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday in celebration of his 100th cap.

However there was initial confusion over the defender's new role at Tuesday's announcement.

In the absence of regular captain Steven Gerrard, Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard was expected to walk the players out at Wembley, only for manager Roy Hodgson to confirm Cole would "lead the team onto the field."

Thirty-two-year-old Cole will in fact skipper the side for the duration of the match, despite a rather puzzling unveiling from his manager.

Hodgson told Sky Sports News: "Frank's always been the captain in Steve's absence. I appointed him when I started over a year ago. But in actual fact tomorrow, Frank and I have discussed this and Frank's happy for Ashley to lead the team onto the field in celebration of his 100th cap, which he'll receive tomorrow. It's actually his 102nd appearance. Frank and I are happy that he will lead the team out there but Frank still remains the captain of the team."

Hodgson was later quizzed further and stated that Cole, and not Lampard, would captain the team throughout.

Lampard offered his take on why his long-time Chelsea colleague had been honored with the armband.

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He said: "Not only getting 100 caps, but the way he has performed over those 100 caps as the most consistent left-back probably in world football over such a long period of time, it's the perfect gesture and very much deserved."

England face Ireland on the international stage for the first time since a match was abandoned due to rioting at Lansdowne Road in 1995.

Hodgson this week helped to prepare a letter that was sent to all those fans holding a ticket for tomorrow night's match, urging supporters to refrain from indulging in provocative behavior or chanting at Wembley.

"It's very important," he added. "It almost goes without saying that you want fans to respect the opposition and I'm hoping that (happens), because tomorrow night is such an important part of our (the Football Association's) Jubilee year and I hope our fans are going to come there and cheer us to a victory.

"I was very happy to send out the letter to try to make sure that the game is played in the right spirit as I know it will be on the field. I hope the fans, and the Irish fans, show the level of respect that we would expect for a game of this type.

"I'm looking forward to it very much. Not only have the Republic of Ireland got a fantastic record, but they've reached major tournaments and have shown they're a difficult team for any opponent. I think it's very fitting that we now play one of the other home nations and in Ireland we know we're going into the kind of quality game that will help us prepare for our important games in October."

Hodgson had no new information about striker Wayne Rooney's situation at Manchester United, where he had a transfer request rejected towards the end of the Barclays Premier League season.

The former Fulham and Liverpool manager admitted he had spoken to Rooney following training but that the player's focus had solely been on Wednesday night's game.

"It just so happened that we were both out of training early," he added. "He's really anxious to play having missed the last couple of games for Manchester United, not least of all due to the birth of his new baby son. He's looking forward to the games and I hope he shows that on the night."

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, who scored his first England goal against San Marino in March, is in line to win his sixth cap.

Hodgson said: "He's in the squad very much on merit. The times he's been with us before he's done very well and I've been unlucky with him once or twice that when he's been called up he's been injured with his club side. I know that he's one we've got high hopes for and I'm hoping he will have the same kind of path Danny Welbeck had since he joined the senior squad."

The Manchester United forward, however, may have to wait until Sunday's meeting with Brazil to add to his five England goals.

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"Unfortunately Danny is still suffering from that knee injury that he had when he came and joined up with us on Sunday night," Hodgson added. "He's receiving constant treatment and we're hoping he'll recover from it but it seems unlikely that will be for the game tomorrow evening.

"We hope that by the time we play Brazil on Sunday he'll be fit. We're vulnerable to injuries tomorrow because we won't have time to call up anybody else. At this time of the year many players have gone away on holiday. It's a tightly-knit group of players that I want to see play but I'm a bit concerned about the injury situation."

When clarifying the captaincy issue, it was put to Hodgson that a situation where Cole fulfills all the duties before kick-off and then passes the job on to Lampard could be seen as somewhat comical.

Hodgson said: "No. He is captain as well. The fact is that he, as you well know, does not enjoy the responsibility of talking publicly and that is why maybe in the past when the England captaincy has come up in the past I am sure his name will have been considered but he shied away from that and he will have been happy to play under others.

"But on this occasion we all think this is the right thing to do, and he is happy to accept that - he was also maybe satisfied with our compromise, that with the press conference today, Frank Lampard would be the one coming in and speaking for the team here, whereas he (Cole) will be doing his talking with his feet tomorrow evening on the pitch."

Pushed further as to whether Cole would be captain for the match, Hodgson said: "Yes."

Robbie Keane will lead the Republic of Ireland into the friendly battle less than 36 hours after his latest trans-Atlantic dash.

The 32-year-old striker will win his 124th senior international cap at Wembley having only landed in London from Los Angles on Tuesday morning.

However, there will be no place in the team for Stoke defender Marc Wilson, who has a calf problem with Reading's Stephen Kelly starting at left-back, and Jon Walters will line up on the right side of midfield with Spartak Moscow's Aiden McGeady on the left.

Republic of Ireland (team): David Forde; Seamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Sean St Ledger, Stephen Kelly; Jon Walters, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady; Shane Long, Robbie Keane (Capt).

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