It was only a couple of months ago that England could genuinely be proud of their strength at left-back.

In Leighton Baines they had arguably the best attacking full-back option in the world, and in Ashley Cole they had a player who could claim to be the most consistent footballer of the 21st Century. You could honestly count bad performances from the Chelsea player on one hand.

Now Baines is injured, and the impact his replacement Bryan Oviedo has had since his introduction suggests that the Englishman isn't as important to the Toffees as was once thought.

And Cole has now been on the bench for Chelsea's past six games since the debacle at St James' Park. 

In those six games, the Blues have conceded seven goals and kept just two clean sheets. It is not like he is being kept out of the team by a fearsome defensive unit, it is simply that, at the moment, Jose Mourinho does not think he's good enough for a place in his team. 

So should Cole be worried?

Maybe. Cesar Azpilicueta is currently the man keeping him out of the team, and he is a right-back playing out of position.

So his place at the club is not secure, and with Kieran Gibbs and Luke Shaw impressing more and more with each passing week, even his short term future at international level does not seem as certain as it once was.

This is, after all, a player who is never dropped and rarely rested. It was also reported recently in the Daily Mail that he is being linked with a transfer to the MLS. Whether Cole is seriously considering such a thing or not, it is generally a rule that footballers are only linked with such moves when they are struggling to get Premier League matches.

In an interview with BBC Sport before their midweek game, Mourinho said that the left-back would start one of their next two fixtures.

He remained firmly on the bench against Sunderland, so he should be starting then away at Stoke on Saturday, not the easiest game to come back into after an extended period without match practice. 

A poor game at the Britannia would probably lead to him being back on the bench for the midweek visit of Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League.

The England centurion will be 33 in a couple of weeks, and a full-back at that age who is struggling for form will only find it harder and harder to force his way back into a starting eleven. 

If Cole doesn't get back into the team soon, then, he has every right to be concerned. Especially in a World Cup year.

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