Still preferring Chelsea’s Ashley Cole to Luke Shaw in Brazil 0

Roy Hodgson spoke effusively about Southampton’s Luke Shaw this week, leading to the assumption that he’ll be included in the England squad for the upcoming friendly with Denmark at the beginning of March.

Whilst it certainly makes sense to reward Shaw for his season-to-date, it seems incredibly unlikely that Hodgson would opt to carry three left-backs at the World Cup and - on the basis that Leighton Baines already has his ticket punched - that final battle is probably between Shaw and Chelsea’s Ashley Cole.

Cole is a fading force in English football, and age is unquestionably starting to restrict him, but surely he’s a preferable option for Hodgson. Shaw’s time will come, without doubt, but given how England are likely to play in the World Cup - with an emphasis on organisation and defensive-rigidity rather than flair - Cole’s discipline without the ball would be invaluable.

“For years people have been understudy to Ashley. Now it’s Ashley’s turn to sit back. 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 isn’t playing in his club team. But he will have to accept, like everyone else, that the competition for his place in the club team and international team gets stronger all the time, and I will have a decision to make.”

Roy Hodgson

It’s always difficult to judge at what point it’s appropriate to throw a young player into full international football, but while I subscribe to the theory of rewarding Premier League form with international caps there is caveat to that and a different philosophy needed with certain positions. England need wisdom in South America, and they need the resilience of defensive players who have been in that kind of environment before - and that’s Ashley Cole rather than Luke Shaw.

None of this is supposed to detract from what a very fine player the latter is becoming, but imagine if Leighton Baines got injured: could Hodgson really start a teenager who, by the point, will have never played a competitive game for his country?

If this debate was over a forward position then maybe it would be different and maybe naivety would be more of a blessing than a weakness, but as it is England have to go with two full-backs who are street-smart and who provide them with the most security.

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