Ashley Cole will play for Chelsea against Manchester United despite being disciplined for shooting a work experience boy with an air rifle.
Cole has apologised for Sunday’s incident, described as an ‘accident’ by Chelsea after players messed around with the rifle at the club’s training ground at Cobham, and is also expected to be fined by the club.
The accident left student Tom Cowan requiring treatment, but not seriously injured. And it seems Cole has escaped calls for him to be sacked.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti said: “He will play tomorrow, yes. Obviously we are not happy with what happened but I have spoken with him. He was really disappointed about this, he said sorry – he made a mistake, it was an accident. Now we are taking proper action but tomorrow he will play and I think he is in focus to play a good game.”
When it was suggested Cole should be sacked, Ancelotti was adamant the English Premier League club would stand by the player and denied discipline was a problem in his squad.
“No, there is no way for this. He’s our player. He always took very good behaviour here. He made a mistake, he knows this. Now we have to move on,” he said.
“When one player said sorry it’s difficult to do different. We have to take our decision.”
“Cobham is not out of control. Cobham has discipline, the players have to respect this. If some players step over the line, we take a decision. This is normal life.”
“But I think from outside nobody can say it’s out of control. They are not here. We have internal discipline. We don’t want to speak about it. It’s not true that there is no discipline here.”
“You can judge the players on the pitch, and on it they are showing respect for referees and for the fans. This is what we have to judge, not other things.”
“He said sorry to everyone. He said sorry to the guy that was involved in this and second to his teammates and third sorry to the club.”
“He’s a good player, a fantastic player, maybe he did a mistake in this situation but he remains a very good player and in my opinion and very good professional.”
Cole will line up against United in a match that could have a huge impact on the Premier League title race, even if Chelsea – at 15 points in arrears – are now almost certainly too far behind the leaders to win the championship themselves.
Ancelotti said: “It’s a very important game for them, for us – a very important game for the future of Man United and of Chelsea. We are excited to play this game. We are in a very good moment, we have confidence to win.”
“It will not be easy because Man United until now is the best team in the Premier League but we hope to play our game and to win.”
“For us it’s important to win to improve our confidence. It will be a good step.”
Ancelotti refused to say whether Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres would both line up against United but said both players would have ‘some minutes’ on the pitch and gave his backing to Torres, who is yet to score since a 50 million-pound move from Liverpool in January.
“For a striker, it is obviously very important to score,” he said.
“But over the last games he played really well. He had four opportunities to score with just the keeper and he moved really well for the team. I was really happy about his performance. He would prefer to score but he will score.”