A fine, Shearer points out, will mean nothing to a player like Cole (who earns around £120,000 a week), but by banning him from an international match (especially when he is two short of his century), the FA would be sending a strong message (the fact that it's only San Marino and we won't miss the Chelsea defender also makes it easier for the FA to act).
But don't expect Cole to miss out on Friday, mainly because the FA doesn't want to pick another fight with its relatively new manager. Having already lost Fabio Capello over the John Terry 'insulting language' affair, the football authority won't want to upset Roy Hodgson because of a related matter.
Banning Cole won't only mean that Hodgson is without a key player, but it could also impact the morale of the squad - many of whom are thought to feel that Terry has been treated somewhat harshly (there but for the grace of God go I, etc). So the last thing Hodgson needs is another player punished as a result of this long-drawn out, badly handled, saga.
And Hodgson made his view of Cole known Friday, describing him as 'fantastic' and saying: 'What is more worthy of consideration is the fact that Ashley, at a relatively young age and with more football left in him, is likely to get his 100th cap very soon – and that is fantastic (too). I don't think we should ever underestimate the value of that'.
Against this background, it will be out of character for the FA to come out and ban Cole. That would require some backbone - and we all know the FA has none (unlike Chelsea, which will discipline him).
image: © Ben Sutherland