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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Cricket

Cole, Baines on equal footing, says Hodgson
AFP
London, November 17, 2013
First Published: 09:14 IST(17/11/2013)
Last Updated: 09:20 IST(17/11/2013)

Ashley Cole's tenure as England's automatic first-choice left-back appears to be at an end after national manager Roy Hodgson said he was now on level pegging with Everton's Leighton Baines.

Cole, 32, has been England's regular number three since 2001, amassing 105 caps, but he has come under increasing pressure from 28-year-old Baines and was recently dropped by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

Hodgson has confirmed that Cole will start in Tuesday's friendly against Germany, Baines having played in the 2-0 loss to Chile on Friday, but the England manager says he no longer sees Baines as a mere understudy.

Asked if the pair were "50-50" rivals, Hodgson replied: "You could say that, if you want, yeah. They're both very good players and I'm happy with both of them."

"There may come a time in the future as we play our first game in Brazil (at the World Cup) where they're both fit, both anxious to play, I need to pick what I think is my best team, and I have to choose between them."

"But that isn't the case here in November. That day will come in June and until then, I'll hopefully keep them both playing well and playing for England."

"I'll push forward the decision as to who is actually the number one and who's the number two until I really have to."

Hodgson will also recall Joe Hart against Germany at Wembley Stadium after Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster was handed his debut in the defeat by Chile.

Hart has lost his place for Manchester City after a string of high-profile blunders and Hodgson admits that his psychological fortitude will be under scrutiny against Joachim Loew's talented German side.

"When you put that England shirt on, be it a white (outfield) shirt or a goalkeeper's jersey, it's a tough mental test," Hodgson said.

"It's a test of attitude and application, but I fully believe that Joe understands that, is ready for that, and all I can do is give him the chance to put the shirt on and go out and play.

"Afterwards, he's going to have to face what he faces. If he plays well and maybe keeps a clean sheet and helps us to win the game, I'm sure people are going to be saying some very good things about him.

"But like everyone else, if he doesn't and lets a couple of easy goals in, he'll have to accept that there'll be criticism, because that's the way of the world."


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