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England boss Roy Hodgson has dropped a big hint that Leighton Baines is now ahead of Ashley Cole in his thoughts to be first-choice left-back for the World Cup in Brazil this summer.
Cole, 33, has often had to settle for a place on the bench for Chelsea this season and it remains to be seen if he will be offered a new contract by the Blues.
His future at club level remains uncertain and now Hodgson has admitted that the former Arsenal man may not be an automatic choice at left-back for his country.
Cole, who has 106 England caps to his name, is a certainty to be on the plane for Brazil – barring injury – but he is facing real competition from Everton’s Baines for a starting role this summer.
“For years people have been understudy to Ashley,” said Hodgson. “Now it’s Ashley’s turn to sit back. It’s a bit of a problem when you are a full-back – you either play or you are an understudy.
“We know what Ashley can do. We know how fit he keeps himself, how experienced he is. I certainly wouldn’t write Ashley Cole out of any plans because he wasn’t playing in his club team.
“But he will have to accept like everyone else that competition for his place in the club team and international team gets stronger all the time, and I will have a decision to make.”
England, who are ranked at 30.00 to triumph this summer, have been drawn in a difficult group for the World Cup and face Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy in the early stages as they look to make an impact in Brazil.