Wednesday 29 February 2012
Stuart Pearce has labelled Chelsea's Ashley Cole as England's best-ever left-back - but says Leighton Baines of Everton is providing stiff competition in that position.
As a player, interim England manager Pearce built his reputiation in the same role with his no-nonsense style.
"Ashley Cole is the best left-back that has ever played for England - that is a fact"
- Stuart Pearce
And the former Nottingham Forest defender - who stepped in as national coach following the departure of Fabio Capello - says Cole has been one of the shining lights of the national team during the past decade.
"He is an outstanding talent," Pearce said.
"I have a great deal of respect for him because the fact I played left-back means I understand the position.
"He is the best left-back that has ever played for England. That is a fact."
A calf injury meant Cole was left on the bench for Chelsea's Champions League match in Napoli, which they lost 3-1, but the defender was back for the 3-0 Barclays Premier League win over Bolton on Saturday.
Pearce said he Cole had been an exceptional performer during the years and downplayed the idea that he may fall out of favour at Stamford Bridge.
"Baines has developed and he is putting some pressure on Cole"
- Stuart Pearce
"It is very difficult to maintain form over decades. You have ups and downs," he said.
"He has consistently been a fantastic member of this squad and hopefully that continues for a long time to come because the one thing I know about Ash is he will come out fighting and will be back in the Chelsea side very quickly."
Although Cole, who has 93 caps to his name, is a senior member of the England squad, Pearce said Baines was also excelling in the left-back role for Everton.
"Leighton has done extremely well," he said. "Over the past two years he has developed and from there he is putting some pressure on Ash.
"But that is what you want in all positions in the squad, especially at this level. This is the peak of English football. You need pressure from all round.
"When young players put pressure on the older players, the older ones have to rise to the challenge. That is the nature of a football squad."