Roy Hodgson alone will determine whether Ashley Cole plays for England in Friday's World Cup qualifier against San Marino after the Football Association ruled out the possibility of banning the full-back for describing the governing body as a "bunch of twats" on Twitter.
Cole, who has linked up with the national squad ahead of Tuesday's official opening of St George's Park, was charged with misconduct by the FA's governance department on Monday and is likely to be fined for bringing the game into disrepute. That sanction, together with an anticipated fine of two weeks wages – around £240,000 – to be imposed by Chelsea for breaching the club's own code of conduct on social media, could see the England defender forking out as much as £300,000 for the message tweeted on Friday afternoon.
The player is consulting with his representative and his lawyer before deciding whether or not to request a personal hearing – he has until 4pm on Thursday to respond – but is expected to accept the FA charge having already issued a public apology for the outburst through his solicitors. The FA will take that into account, together with the fact he deleted the offensive message, albeit after it had been re-tweeted over 19,000 times, when determining the size of the fine to be imposed.
Yet, when combined with the money to be docked from his wages by his club, the misdemeanour appears destined to cost Cole far more than the £220,000 John Terry must pay, pending a potential appeal, after the independent regulatory commission found him guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.
It was the publication of their reasoning for that decision that had prompted Cole's furious reaction and suggestions the FA might seek effectively to suspend him from Friday's game against San Marino when he might otherwise have earned a 99th cap.
However, the governing body is anxious to retain a distinction between disciplinary matters and the England national team, with the precedent on off-field cases such as this – Rio Ferdinand was fined £45,000 for re-tweeting a message that described Cole as a "choc ice" after Terry's trial in July – a monetary sanction. That policy is set to be maintained.
That will leave Hodgson to decide whether or not to pick England's most-capped left-back against the team ranked joint 207th in the world, an event that would see Cole shaking hands with the FA chairman, David Bernstein, and other dignitaries in the pre-match pleasantries.
The national manager had already given thought to resting the player for the fixture, conscious as he is that the 31-year-old can struggle with ankle complaints immediately after games and with England due to play Poland in a far more daunting fixture on Tuesday in Warsaw.
Leighton Baines, who has started against Italy, Moldova and Ukraine in England's fixtures this season, could therefore play against San Marino with Cole in contention instead for the game against the Poles, who will be without their captain, Jakub Blaszczykowski, after he sustained his own ankle injury.
Hodgson, as expected, has called up Cole's club-mate Ryan Bertrand to replace the injured Kieran Gibbs with Jonjo Shelvey, the uncapped Liverpool midfielder, also linking up with squad that convened at St George's Park on Monday evening as cover for Frank Lampard. The 20-year-old is suspended for the first leg of the under-21s' European Championship play-off against Serbia at Norwich and will train instead with the seniors. A decision will be taken at the weekend as to whether he drops back down to Stuart Pearce's junior side for next week's second leg in Krusevac.
Cole arrived at the new national football complex outside Burton-on-Trent still digesting the charge laid upon him by the FA – the governing body having visited the vast majority of league clubs this year to discuss the potential pitfalls of Twitter with players – and will be part of the squad who meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the site's official opening on Tuesday. Chelsea have confirmed they will pursue their own disciplinary procedure against the player, but will not be reviewing their overall policy on social media in the wake of the outburst.
They are in regular dialogue with their staff about the use of Twitter, encouraging players to interact with the club's support, and recognise Cole's error of judgment as a relatively isolated incident where their own code of conduct on social media has been breached. It remains to be seen how the furore affects negotiations over a new contract. The left-back's current deal expires next summer and, while a one-year extension has been mooted, talks remain at an impasse with Cole seeking to secure a longer-term agreement and Paris St-Germain, managed by the former Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti, monitoring his potential availability.