With Cole having sat on the bench during Chelsea’s last two matches, many had come to wonder if the player’s time was up as first choice left-back at Stamford Bridge.
The Englishman’s place has been filled by Cesar Azpilicueta, who usually plays as a right-back.
However, speaking on Sky Sports, manager Mourinho insisted that Cole had nothing to fear, "Ashley is a top professional," he said. "He just needs time to recover 100% and put himself at the top of his game and to fight to have his position.”
Despite sounding as though he was trying to push Cole to work harder, the Portuguese insisted that that was not the case. "He's not the kind of personality you need to leave on the bench to send him a message to him to make him realise that he has to give more. No way.”
Instead, Mourinho said that Azpilicueta deserved to start in the veteran’s place, because “he's stronger at this moment. He's physically at the top of his game. He's strong.”
With Cole having recently missed England’s crucial qualifying matches against Montenegro and Poland, as well as the friendly defeat to Chile, many pundits have come to suggest that Everton's Leighton Baines should now be England’s first choice left-back as the World Cup finals approach.
Yet with Baines’ attacking superiority over Cole virtually unquestioned, the jury is still out over which player is better defensively, with most still preferring 32-year-old Cole.
Indeed, Mourinho seems to think that Cole is just being bothered by a small physical distraction. “He has a little bit of pain. It's a limitation. Can he sprint 100%? Maybe not. Can he jump 100%? Maybe not. But he's not injured.”
With Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s fondness for casting out older players, Cole will be hoping that he can return to Mourinho’s starting XI and prove to his England and Chelsea teammates that despite his age, he is still the best choice at left-back.
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