ROY HODGSON will make Ashley Cole England’s latest centurion this evening – but has warned the Chelsea man that Leighton Baines is poised to pounce on his left-back role.
Cole will win his 100th cap against Brazil in tonight’s glamour friendly at Wembley as part of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
However, there have been growing calls for in-form Everton defender Baines to be handed a regular role on the left side of England’s defence.
And England manager Hodgson conceded Cole is under more pressure for his place than at any time in his 11 year international career.
“Ashley has come under greater scrutiny if you like and the competition for his place is greater than in the past,” said Hodgson.
“I feel Leighton has matured enormously as an international player during the last year and is playing extremely well.
“Cole is playing well and Leighton is also playing well. I’m pleased to have the headache.
“It won’t be an easy choice when they are both fit and vying to play in the important games.
“But I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it and at the moment Ashley is the player we all know and respect and admire.
“Leighton is breathing down his neck and Ashley is not stupid, he has got big competition but that’s how it should be.
“If we are ever going to have a top class England team, there will be that level of competition throughout the team.”
Cole has not always been popular with England fans but Hodgson believes he deserves a favourable reception at Wembley.
He said: “I deal with Ashley the footballer, the man I know on the football field, who I know as an England player, who is trying to help me win matches.
“I see no reason for England fans not giving him the credit and reception and the admiration he deserves playing his 100th game.
“If you are an England fan and don’t respect or love someone for doing that, then that’s your problem and not his.”
Hodgson confirmed Baines will be involved at some point against Brazil, although it is most likely to be as a substitute.
“Ashley will start the game, then I’ll have to see what to do with Leighton, who has been doing very well,” said the England manager.
Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, who will receive an award before the match having won his 100th cap in Sweden last November, will skipper the side, with Anfield team-mate Glen Johnson and Goodison duo Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka also expected to feature at some point.