Hodgson welcomes left-back battle

The Bolton News: Ashley Cole faces a battle to retain his regular starting place in the England team Ashley Cole faces a battle to retain his regular starting place in the England team

Ashley Cole has been warned his status as England's automatic choice at left-back is under threat.

After being rested for Friday's one-sided romp against San Marino, Cole will return to win his 99th cap as England take on Poland in Warsaw's National Stadium.

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

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

"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," captain Steven 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."

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