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Lee Dixon: On Ashley Cole and the night San Marino scored

Ashley shows his anguish at Euro 2012

If I was a manager I'd ban my players from using Twitter. They could plead that was an infringement of their human rights but I think things would run more smoothly if players would just leave it alone.

Lee Dixon shares his thoughts on the Ashley Cole Twitter outburst, looks ahead to England's Friday night fixture and back at the night San Marino scored against the Three Lions.

I first met Ashley Cole when he was coming through the ranks at Arsenal. He was a quiet, talented lad and we've always got on very well. I think his outburst against the FA was foolish but how can they punish him?

I'm not sure Ashley's comments warrant a ban but, with footballers earning such astronomical wages, it's very difficult to punish them in any meaningful way. A fine would have no impact whatsoever but if they're not prepared to stop him playing - either for England or his club - then they probably just have to accept his apology and move on. He's on the verge of an enormous achievement - 100 international caps - and, until now, he's been an excellent servant to the national team.

As I say, I've always liked Ashley, but there does seem to be another side to him that comes through in his tweets. He's not the only footballer who's fallen foul of social media, so is it the men or the medium? If I was a manager I'd ban my players from using Twitter. They could plead that was an infringement of their human rights but I think things would run more smoothly if players would just leave it alone.

Twitter is great for getting stuff out there and chatting to friends and fans but it lends itself to impulsive, undiluted outbursts that can be very destructive.

I've got no complaints about Roy Hodgson's England squad for the two World Cup qualifiers. Peter Crouch might consider himself unlucky, and Rio Ferdinand showed on Sunday for Manchester United that he still has a part to play, but Hodgson is a master of working with what's available and he's gone with the best group of English players out there.

You and me could play against San Marino and England would still win, so Roy has the chance to rest players ahead of the tougher assignment against Poland. Maybe I shouldn't underestimate England's Friday night opponents, after all I was part of the side that managed to concede a goal against them in 1993.

We went in to that match in strange circumstances, needing to win by seven goals and for Turkey to beat Holland if we were to qualify for the USA World Cup. Stuart Pearce played his back pass short to David Seaman and Davide Gauliteri nipped in to give the hosts the lead. Graham Taylor's reign is famous for acrimony - "Do I not like that!" - but if you look at the video of the San Marino goal you might see me walking back to the halfway line laughing.

I was in complete shock. It was the most outrageous thing I've ever seen on a football pitch. It was hilarious but it won't happen again on Friday. You won't get goods odds on an England clean sheet but read my column here later this week to see where I'm putting my money.

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09 October 2012

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