Gerrard: Cole a pleasure to play with

England captain Steven Gerrard pays tribute to team-mate Ashley Cole ahead of the team's World Cup qualifier against Poland.

Football News: Ashley Cole.

It could almost have been scripted.

As soon as Ashley Cole's name was mentioned, the lights went out.

That someone from the FA side was responsible for pitching the small room inside Poland's National Stadium into darkness just made it more amusing.

After all, Cole has caused so much grief down the years it is tempting to end discussion of the Chelsea full-back before his name is even mentioned.

Yet like skipper Steven Gerrard, Cole if selected will win his 99th cap in tomorrow's [Tuesday] World Cup qualifier in Warsaw.

And like Gerrard, the defender reserves his best side for when the whistle goes.

"It is important to speak about Ashley as a player," said Gerrard. "Privately he is quite quiet and reserved.

"But he comes alive on the pitch.

"It's been an absolute pleasure to play with him over the years. He's been one of the best left-backs this country has ever produced.

"Let's enjoy the last few years of his time with us."

Over the past fortnight alone Cole has found himself in trouble for a four-letter outburst on Twitter that led to him accepting an FA misconduct charge.

Now there is speculation he is ready to sever ties with Chelsea at the end of the season, having grown increasingly disenchanted over their stance about a contract extension.

Cole offered FA chairman David Bernstein a personal apology over the former issue, without which his place in tomorrow [Tuesday] night's match might have been in question.

"That's been dealt with very clearly this week," said Hodgson. "We had the incident and the situation, and that was dealt with to the FA's satisfaction.

"The chairman made his views very clear.

"I've been allowed to concentrate on football and to work with Ashley on the field. That is all."

Cole is certain to return in place of Leighton Baines tomorrow [Tuesday].

Yet the decision is not quite as automatic as it once was.

Baines has started all four England games so far this season, and in Ryan Bertrand and Kieran Gibbs Hodgson has another couple of youngsters applying pressure to the man in possession.

"Ashley is still a fantastic player," said Hodgson.

"We are lucky though, because Ashley was regarded as the only left-back in England for many years. Now we have Leighton Baines, who will always push him and some interesting younger left-backs like Kieran Gibbs and Ryan Bertrand.

"It's been a problem position in many of the countries I've worked, but we are very well off, which is encouraging because, if anything, the importance of their role has increased."

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