STEVEN Gerrard has urged England fans to “respect” the achievement of defender Ashley Cole, who will reach the 100-cap mark if he plays in tomorrow’s friendly against Brazil at Wembley.
Skipper Gerrard believes Cole has at times been the best left-back in the world and England’s most consistent performer during his time with the national side.
Cole has not always been the most popular player with England supporters, but Gerrard wants fans to acknowledge his contribution over the past decade when he steps out against the Brazilians.
Gerrard, who won his 100th cap against Sweden in November, said: “I think it’s very important the Wembley crowd respect what Ashley has done for England.
“I think if the fans take a moment and have a think of what Ashley Cole has given in an England shirt over the last ten or 12 years, it has been phenomenal.
“He’s probably been the most consistent player I’ve played with during my time.
“It’s going to be Ashley’s night, if he’s picked to play, and the players are certainly going to show him a hell of a lot of support. Let’s hope the fans do as well.”
Gerrard admits players get used to criticism and use it as a driving force.
He said: “Yes, of course, there are times when you wonder if the criticism is all worth it. But players are thick skinned. We can take criticism off you lads (the media) and the supporters.
“There’s no problem with that at all and sometimes it actually helps drive you on to prove people wrong and prove you are good enough to be at this level.
“Ashley is big enough and strong enough to take any criticism that comes his way.
But I think anyone here or in that ground on Wednesday night can’t take that away from Ashley.
“He deserves to be a 100-cap player, there’s no doubt about it. I think there’s been years over the last 12 when Ashley Cole has been the best leftback in the world.
“We’ve been lucky to have him. I think the supporters realise that as well and let’s hope they give him a fantastic reception.
“It was a great feeling for me to get to 100 caps in the last game so I know what Ashley is going to be feeling, and credit to him.”