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Tactics And Analysis

England has left-back options

An ever growing number of left backs on the England squad means Ashley Cole could no longer be coach Roy Hodgson's automatic choice.

"Ashley is still a fantastic player," Hodgson said. "We are lucky though, because Ashley was regarded as the only left-back in England for many years.

"Now we have Leighton Baines, who will always push him, and some interesting younger left-backs like Kieran Gibbs and Ryan Bertrand."

After being rested during Friday's one-sided romp against San Marino, Cole will return to win his 99th cap Tuesday (11:45 a.m. ET) as England takes on Poland in Warsaw's National Stadium.

Skipper Steven Gerrard, who will move onto the same mark, spoke of Cole going on for another couple of years.

But to do so, the 31-year-old will need to fend off an ever increasing number of rivals.

"It's been a problem position in many of the countries I've worked, but we are very well off, which is encouraging because, if anything, the importance of their role has increased."

Baines has started all four England games so far this season and there are some who think the Everton man should keep his place ahead of Cole, who has again been in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently.

Firstly, Cole found himself in trouble for a four-letter outburst on Twitter that led to him accepting an FA misconduct charge.

Now there is speculation he is ready to sever ties with Chelsea at the end of the season, having grown increasingly disenchanted over their stance about a contract extension.

"It is important to speak about Ashley as a player," Gerrard said. "Privately he is quite quiet and reserved, but he comes alive on the pitch.

"It's been an absolute pleasure to play with him over the years. He's been one of the best left-backs this country has every produced.

"Let's enjoy the last few years of his time with us."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.


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