Roy Hodgson set the stage for a straight competition between the 106-cap Ashley Cole and 18-year-old new boy Luke Shaw for a place in the England World Cup finals squad, announcing that both left-backs will feature against Denmark.
Leighton Baines, the third left-back in the squad, has been told that he will take no part in the game at Wembley, the last England friendly before Hodgson names his squad of 23 players, and seven on stand-by, on 13 May. The players were told tonight of the XI that will start the Denmark game.
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Baines' omission from Hodgson's plans is acknowledgement that the Everton man has his place on the plane, having started three of the last four England games and been a regular for his club. Cole's position in the side has been drastically undermined by Jose Mourinho's decision to make Cesar Azpilicueta Chelsea's first-choice left-back.
Southampton's Shaw, a Chelsea fan who was four years old when Cole made his professional debut, is expected to get half an hour at least against the Danes and could even start the game. Shaw's remarkable season has propelled him into contention despite being uncapped by the seniors and with only three Under-21s caps to his name.
Hodgson said: "All three of them want to play, but even with substitutions I can't fit in three left-backs. I've spoken to Leighton and he won't feature, unless we get an incredible number of injuries. It's the right moment in this game to look at one of or both Luke and Ashley Cole, as Leighton has been playing regularly for us. The two I need to look at in an England shirt are Ashley and Luke."
The captain, Steven Gerrard, said that he had no doubts that Cole was ready to play, despite having started just four games since the turn of the year.
He said: "When players have an injury and are sitting on their backside for a long time it can have an effect. But I am sure Chelsea have top-class fitness coaches and Ashley looks in good nick in training the last couple of days. He is a fit lad naturally anyway. You can always rely on Ashley Cole for England. I am not worried for Ashley."
Hodgson also announced that the celebrated sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, who worked with the successful Great Britain cycling team, as well as Liverpool in recent months, would join the England team staff for the World Cup. He will also add a nutritionist and an extra fitness coach to assist the current one, Chris Neville, during the tournament.
Kyle Walker has withdrawn from the squad and stayed at Tottenham's training ground, which England have used this week, for treatment on a groin injury. Otherwise, Hodgson is in the rare position of having 29 fit players at his disposal. He can make six substitutions.
Hodgson also expressed his distaste at a campaign to have Tom Cleverley excluded from the England squad for the World Cup. "I don't think it's really correct that people should single out one player for Manchester United's lack of success this season," he said. "I don't think you can expect me as a football person to have any sympathy with that, and I would like to think I'm not going to have the England team selected in the future by petitions."