Hodgson demands respect for Cole
England manager Roy Hodgson believes Ashley Cole's off-field indiscretions should not be a reflection of his playing career, backing the defender to be remembered as one of the country's greats.
Cole, 32, has had a troubled history with life in the public eye, particularly following his relationship with former wife Cheryl, but Hodgson has demanded respect for the Chelsea left-back who is set to earn his 100th cap in England's friendly against Brazil on Wednesday.
"These are things that occurred in the distant past when I wasn't even in the country," Hodgson said. "And if I had been I wouldn't have been hanging on every word. The media have a lot of power and that does have an effect on people. It's a fact of life.
"If Ashley has had that treatment neither him or I can do anything about it. I judge him as a football player. Is he going to be the right man to help England win football matches? That's what really interests me. Over the last nine months I have found him a very good professional, who prefers to do his talking on the football field; but I see nothing wrong with that."
Cole's place in the starting line-up for the Three Lions is in doubt with a resurgent Leighton Baines waiting in the wings. The Everton defender has been a standout for the Toffees this season and Hodgson admits he will have difficulty choosing between Baines and Cole, although it has led him to praise the depth of England's squad.
"Leighton doesn't have to do anything to prove himself," he said. "He knows he's capable of playing for England at left-back, just as Ashley knows he's capable, which he has proved with a hundred caps. Ashley will play on Wednesday. Whether he will play the whole game, half or whether he will start, I still have to decide.
"It is a difficult one but they will just have to fight it out. The competition will be fierce and I'll have to make a decision - and I know that if the player plays well and we win I'll be held as having made the right decision; and if we play badly and lose I'll have made the wrong one.
"But that's how it should be for a top footballing nation. We should have a couple of good choices in each position. The Brazilians certainly do.''
Cole also collected praise from former England manager Fabio Capello who listed him as the national team's player of the year for 2012 from the shortlist of five players voted for by fans on the FA website.
Four ex-bosses were asked who they think should be handed the honour, which will be announced at St George's Park on Sunday, with Steven Gerrard receiving the backing of Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren, while Kevin Keegan voted for Glen Johnson.
But Capello believes Cole's versatility should earn him the plaudits.
"Ashley won this same award for his performances in 2010," he said. "He is world class. He is always consistent, has fantastic energy, incredible experience and you can rely on him in any situation. His attitude matches his ability and he gives everything for the team."
Information from the Press Association was used in this report