Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2012: Roy Hodgson praises Ashley Cole ahead of landmark appearance against Ukraine

England boss Roy Hodgson will never take Ashley Cole for granted.

Cole will set a new landmark tomorrow when he makes his 21st tournament appearance, eclipsing the record jointly held by David Beckham and Peter Shilton.

Should England go on to reach the final of Euro 2012, Cole will almost certainly become the latest player to reach 100 caps.

Yet, partly because of the position he plays but also due to the negative perceptions that surround him, the 31-year-old has rarely been a crowd favourite.

However, Hodgson has quickly become a fan and like every England manager since Sven Goran Eriksson, knows Cole will be one of his first names on the team sheet.

"He misses very few games, either for his national team or club team, and always plays to a very high level," Hodgson told BBC Radio Five Live.

"It is great to hear that he has this record to beat when he plays against the Ukraine. I am delighted for him.

"It would be wrong to take him for granted. We are very much aware of his qualities and how much we need him down that left side.

"Because he is a quiet man, maybe for a lot of people he does slip under the radar.

"I know he is most comfortable when he lets his football do the talking."

England's plans for tomorrow night's encounter with co-hosts Ukraine have had to be changed due to the violent thunderstorms that struck Donetsk on Friday.

In their desire to protect the surface, UEFA have barred both teams from training at the Donbass Arena, so the Three Lions will go through their final session in Krakow before flying into Donetsk for their meeting with Ukraine, when a point will be enough to secure a quarter-final berth, almost certainly against Spain.

With Wayne Rooney returning after suspension and Theo Walcott complaining of a tight hamstring in training yesterday, the only change expected is who will partner the Manchester United man in attack.

Red Devils team-mate Danny Welbeck is the obvious choice, although Andy Carroll was also on the scoresheet against Sweden on Friday and is also in contention.

Either way, Hodgson is keen to keep everyone on board.

"These games come round so quickly, to have the opportunity to give the odd player a rest is only an advantage," he said.

"It's very much a 14-man game in these tournaments.

"The heat has an effect and so does the intensity of the games so quite often you are happy to have a player or two on the bench that you believe can make a difference to your team."

Belfast Telegraph