Centurion Ashley Cole will captain England against Ireland at Wembley on Wednesday, and team-mate Frank Lampard believes the defender is fully deserving of the honour.
Cole, who made his 100th appearance against Brazil in February, will win his 102nd cap tomorrow night, wearing the armband in the absence of regular captain Steven Gerrard, while Lampard, the regular vice-captain, will win his 96th.
‘Everyone is behind Ashley in this matter,’ England manager Roy Hodgson said. ‘We talked about it in the past, his reluctance to play the captain’s role in front of the mass media, and we all understand and accept that, but everyone thought it would be nice if he put the armband on and led the team out.
‘Frank was more than happy to pass on that honour because we all believe he deserves it. He has been a fantastic servant not only to Chelsea and Arsenal but England as well.’
Lampard added his praise for his Chelsea team-mate, who has shared a dressing room at Stamford Bridge with the midfielder for almost seven years since switching from our north London rivals.
‘Knowing him getting 100 caps and the way he has performed as the most consistent left-back in world football over such a long period of time, it’s the perfect gesture and very much deserved for him. As a team-mate at club level and international I’m very happy for him,’ Lampard said.
The game is one of two friendlies for England in the coming week, with Brazil to come in the Maracana on Sunday. Lampard is looking for the side to show encouragement ahead of key qualifiers in the autumn.
‘We’re always aware that the performance, trying to impress the manager and training together, is of huge importance,’ the 34-yearold said. ‘We know we have qualifiers coming early next season and we want to be at our best to show what we can do against two very good teams.’
Lampard was filmed in training on Monday scoring from the halfway line against West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster, a clip that has done the rounds on YouTube.
‘I was pleased the camera was on it to pick it up. Ben Foster probably let it in, I wouldn’t say I do it all the time so I was quite surprised at it,’ he smiled.
Having had to sit out our friendly against Manchester City in St Louis and flying home before our New York fixture, Lampard is looking forward to playing again, and believes he and his Chelsea team-mates can bring a certain confidence to the England camp after our strong finish to the season.
‘It’s nice to come in on a run of confidence, to finish how I did and for us as a club to win the Europa league brings a few of us, Ashley and Gary Cahill, in on a confident run. If we can bring that onto the pitch it can only be a bonus,’ he said, before assessing the Irish opposition.
‘A lot of them play in the Premier League so that adds to the competitiveness of the game. They’re very proud to play for their country and we have to show the same for England, then trust in our ability to come out on top.’
Lampard’s Chelsea team-mate David Luiz is already looking forward to the game in Rio at the refurbished Maracana. Having lost 2-1 at Wembley in Cole’s 100th game in February, he is looking to make amends.
‘It’s time for revenge!,’ joked the 26-year-old. ‘Not really, just a time to practice and make the team better before the Confederations Cup. It will be another difficult game like it was in Wembley Stadium, but this time I hope to win the match.’
You will be able to find out here on the official Chelsea website how all our international players fare over the coming weeks.