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Ashley Cole v Leighton Baines: England’s selection headache

With the World Cup Qualifiers underway, Roy Hodgson faces a serious dilemma at his choice of Left Back. The England boss now needs to choose between the ageing Ashley Cole and new boy Leighton Baines.

Cole is regarded by many fans and critics alike to be one of the best left backs of his generation. Last night he reached the significant landmark of 100 caps for his country. His accolades are far superior to those of Baines, having played in three world cups, claimed three Premier League titles and won ‘England player of the year in 2010’. He is also the only player, alongside Nicolas Anelka, to have won the double with two different clubs.  Despite all these great feats there are doubts about his England Future.

Leighton Baines has, in most people’s eyes, been the best left back during the current League season. The Everton defender has been rock solid at the back, whilst also providing for his team in attack. The 28-year-old has scored 5 goals in 25 appearances.  In my opinion there is no better left sided combo in the Premier League than Baines and Pienaar, who have created many of Everton’s chances this campaign.

Cole is a more conservative choice, a safe option if you like.  He doesn’t make many mistakes and doesn’t try anything flashy.  But Baines provides another attacking option that England often lack with Theo Walcott currently being the only consistent winger.  Some would argue that this might leave England exposed at the back. But I’m sure the combination of Wilshire acting as cover and Baines’ extraordinary work rate would more than make up for the possible frailties.

England could always do with extra goals and despite Cole’s early years at Arsenal seeing him playing virtually as a winger in defence, he has very rarely provided a goal threat having only managed to score a goal on average every 30 games.

Baines also has a better disciplinary record than Cole, having only ever been sent off once during his professional career. On top of this, he has received less yellow cards per game. This might be a minor issue compared with form, but discipline can make all the difference in the major tournaments.

Cole has had various misdemeanors during his career: falling out with the FA, a messy transfer from Arsenal, extra marital affairs, banned from driving for 4 months for going double the speed limit and famously shooting a work experience student with an air rifle.  This coupled with stories about his wage demands have seen him become a very unpopular figure in English football. As a result he has experienced booing from England fans on various occasions.

Cole will be remembered as a great servant to England. Earning his 100th cap is a great way to showcase his achievements for his country. But similar to Beckham there comes a time when you have to look to the future. In my opinion, Hodgson must now say farewell to a past great and prepare for the next challenge ahead.

Have your say: who should start for England, Baines or Cole? comment with your thoughts and opinions below!

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