Ashley Cole’s latest injury setback will not hamper his World Cup chances, according to England head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The Arsenal defender hurt his ankle early on during last night’s reserve game against Tottenham, an appearance in which he hoped to build up match fitness.
Cole, 25, has not featured for the first team since being sidelined during mid-January after injuring his thigh in a substitute appearance against Middlesbrough, which had marked his return to action after more than three months out with a broken foot.
Scans are expected to confirm no serious problems, and a just a sprain rather than ligament damage.
But the left-back is nevertheless set to be out of contention for up to another month and will miss the second leg of Arsenal’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid at Highbury.
Despite such a stop-start campaign for his club, Eriksson is convinced Cole will show few ill effects by the time the England squad leaves for Germany this summer.
“He is a quick one to get in form, with the body he has,” Eriksson declared. “You would wait a long time to rule him out because he is maybe one of the best left-sided defenders in the world today.”
While Arsenal’s Barclays Premiership form has certainly taken a dip in the absence of Cole and other experienced defenders like Sol Campbell and Lauren - leaving them currently outside the top six – it has at least allowed youngsters such as Kerrea Gilbert and Johann Djourou the chance to taste competitive first-team action.
Cole believes that is one small positive to take from what has been a hugely frustrating spell of his career.
“With the number of injuries we have had, maybe I could have helped a bit if I had been playing, but it has given a chance to the young ones to come through, so it is not always bad,” said Cole on www.arsenal.com, before his latest ill-fated comeback match.
“It is down to them now. They have a chance to prove to the manager that they are good enough.”
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has reiterated his desire to remain with Arsenal.
The German international is out of contract at the end of the season, and he said: “I have spoken to Wenger about my contract renewal. I am optimistic we can reach an agreement considering what I have done in recent seasons and this year.
“But we still have not reached a solution because it depends on how long the agreement will be for.
“I would like to stay but I do realise that I am 36 years old and if I ask for a four-year contract I might only get two.”