England in Safe Hands as Leighton Baines Steps in for Ashley Cole

Alex LivieFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30:  Leighton Baines of Everton shoots during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle United at Goodison Park on September 30, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Ashley Cole is one of the best left-backs in world football, but if there is one position in which England can cope with losing a player of that standing, it is at left-back.

Cole will not play in the final two World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland after damaging ribs in Chelsea’s win at Norwich City on Sunday.

Ashley Cole ruled out of England's World Cup Qualifier against Montenegro with rib injury #SSN

— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) October 7, 2013

Cole has been stalked for the England left-back spot for quite some time by Leighton Baines. The Everton man will now get his chance to emerge from the shadows.

Baines has made a blistering start to the season and even before Cole’s injury, there were calls for the Everton defender to be given his chance for the national side.

There are also those who have suggested England should deploy Cole and Baines in the same team, with the former at left-back and the latter in an advanced position on the left-hand side of midfield.

Given the lack of world-class, left-midfield options available to England manager Roy Hodgson, there is merit to such a suggestion.

However, it would have been unfair on Baines to ask him to play out of position for the national side. Even though he would in all probability jump at the chance to play in advance of Cole, Baines is a left-back.

That is his chosen position and he will now get the chance to prove he is worthy of a place in the side.

Comparing Cole and Baines so far this season, the statistics suggest Baines has the edge on Cole.

Also, Baines brings a superb attacking dimension with him. His set-piece delivery is simply superb, which he proved with two free-kick goals in Everton’s win over West Ham earlier in the season.

Despite the statistics suggesting Baines has an edge on Cole in terms of performances so far this season, the Chelsea man is boss Hodgson’s first-choice left-back.

That is unlikely to change between now and next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.

Baines, though, now has the chance to send a message to Hodgson that he is more than just an understudy to Cole.

Effective, composed displays against Montenegro on Friday and Poland the following Tuesday will hopefully book the Three Lions' ticket to Brazil. They would also confirm to the England boss that Baines can operate in a high-pressure situation on the international stage.

Taking on Montenegro and Poland at Wembley will be a world away from a World Cup quarter-final, but the pressure will be high due to what is at stake.

England cannot afford to slip up and if Baines wants to be seen as the equal of Cole, neither can he.