Dropping Ashley Cole is a brave decision by Roy Hodgson and, I would argue, a foolhardy one. Experience is crucial at international tournaments and I think England may come to regret not having the greatest left-back to have pulled on a white shirt in their ranks when the World Cup starts.
I don’t think it was the right decision by Hodgson at all. Cole has come back into the Chelsea team lately and still looks like the player he was, still looks a very, very good left-back. Surely he would be the best option in Brazil?
To be perfectly honest I cannot understand why Hodgson has taken this decision at all. Perhaps he felt he did not want to stand in the way of an up-and-coming youngster like Luke Shaw. Such a strategy is fine at club level, but at international level the one thing you value above all others is experience.
Cole is still good at his job and he has proved that in the games he has played for Chelsea recently, when he has come back into the side and looked like he has never been away. It seems very strange to exclude him now – a player with 107 caps, let’s not forget.
Hate him or love him, you cannot deny that Cole is the best left-back England have ever had, and this is an incredibly sad way to end a great international career, and an unjust one too. His game hasn’t deteriorated sufficiently to see him cast aside by his country.
That will be what hurts most for Ashley: the fact that he is still good enough to go but the chance has been ripped from him by his club manager, who has taken him out of the Chelsea team. He can’t look in the mirror and question himself. The only person who has cost him his World Cup dream is Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho came out a few weeks ago and told Hodgson to pick him, but if I was Roy, I’d have said, ‘you pick him first, and then let me worry about England’. I think Cole should still have been in that Chelsea team but the fact he isn't has cost him the opportunity of going to his final World Cup, and in Brazil no less – the finest place to play football on the planet. Mourinho took that away from him.
He plays a right-footed player ahead of Cole – Cesar Azpilicueta – and when Cole does come back in the team look much more balanced. To me, what has gone on with Chelsea and Cole has been non-sensical.
I question the wisdom of taking two very inexperienced full-backs – even Leighton Baines hasn’t played that many competitive games for England, even though he has been around the squad for a long time. He has also gone off the boil a bit.
He certainly gives you something extra from dead balls but international football is a completely different kind of football and positioning is such an essential skill. First and foremost you have to be able to defend, and out of the three of them, even still now Ashley Cole is the best defender.
He tackles more, he reads the game superbly, people rarely go past him with the ball, and his positional sense is the best out of all three of them. At international level it’s not always about going in hard in the tackle but being in the right area to deal with danger. Cole does that.
I’m still not 100% sure about Shaw’s defending. He looks exciting going forward in a free-flowing Southampton side who are great to watch, but what’s he like when he has to defend in an international? On one-on-one situations neither he nor Baines are better than Cole. Cole is also a more tenacious player. Personally I think it is the wrong decision.
I’ve played at a World Cup and I can tell you that experience is vitally important. I benefited hugely in 1990 from having Chris Waddle in front of me and Terry Butcher and Des Walker to my side. Peter Shilton was in nets. These are players who had played so many games.
Hodgson must now be careful how he picks his team in Brazil. He can’t go mad and play too many of the kids together, even if he wants to mark a departure from the rest of his reign and show he can field a progressive side. We are going to have a big fight to get out of the group and experience could be vital against the likes of Italy and Uruguay.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ashley Cole
- Roy Hodgson