Love him or loath him, Ashley Cole has been an England stalwart for over 10 years, and has been consistently been the best left back in the world for the majority. He’s the country’s fifth most capped player, and in club football has won just about every trophy available. Internationally however he’s lacking something, that all important World Cup.
Of course, that Jules Rimet trophy is one that realistically he is never going to achieve. The Three Lions haven’t gone beyond a semi-final in almost 20 years, and even the expertly cool penalty taking Cole fluffed his chance during the last major tournament. But one question will be asked, will he even be in Brazil this summer?
Ashley Cole could become the first England star after Bobby Charlton to play in four World Cups, but in just a short space of time, the Chelsea full back has gone from being the first name on the team sheet to perhaps even an outcast in the England side. Whilst even Jose Mourinho is reluctant to give him a regular spot.
The likes of Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw, Ryan Bertrand, and Kieran Gibbs are all lighting up the Premier League whilst the 33-year-old is being preferred to the naturally right-footed Cesar Azpilicueta.
This leaves not only Cole, but England manager Roy Hodgson with a bit of a dilemma. Brazil 2014 will undoubtedly be Cole’s last major tournament and he needs plenty of game time if he’s to take the place of the impressive forces bounding the left wings up and down the nation.
Should he get that, his experience could be invaluable when Hodgson’s men arrive in Rio de Janeiro this summer. It is likely he will receive the call up anyway. The England defence is seriously lacking in experience with only most starters only having received around 20 caps a piece, and therefore he could play an integral part, even if it’s not on the pitch.
For the first time in many years, there is no pressure on England. The nation’s media have written them off already and many bookmakers have them as high as 32-1 to take the World Cup crown.
Only Gerrard, Lampard, and Rooney have a similar veil of experience to what Cole did. To go into a major tournament with no experienced defenders would be sacrilege in the latter stages, which of course England should be planning to be in.
What could stand in his way however, is the fact there are no expectations. Roy Hodgson essentially has a free hit at the World Cup. A chance to try, test, and develop players whose futures lie ahead of them. And whilst that isn’t necessarily Baines who has catapulted himself to first choice, it isn’t Cole either, and the likes of Shaw, and Gibbs in particular could get the nod.