An automatic England ban for Ashley Cole isn't the solution. Instead, he should be worried about the performances of Everton's Leighton Baines.

                     Focused | Leighton Baines can even take a penalty, a rarity for an English footballer.


The debate surrounding what should happen to Ashley Cole following the Chelsea defender’s profanity-laden tweet on Friday is still raging on.

Some are calling for the extreme draconian reaction, which would be to drop the full back from the England squad indefinitely.

Others believe that Cole should be punished internally by Chelsea and investigated by the Football Association, but ultimately allowed to carry on playing for the national side.

There has been speculation that not only will the Blues fine Cole the maximum amount – two weeks wages, around £250,000 – for referring to the FA as a “bunch of twats”, but that Roy Hodgson may rest the 31-year-old against San Marino.

This would mean that Cole would be unable to reach a century of England appearances, the mystical 100 caps achieved by legendary figures such as Bobby Moore, Peter Shilton and Bobby Charlton.

There is also a forgotten element to the big question over whether Cole should simply be able to slot back into his familiar left-sided role in the England defence. That element is Leighton Baines.

Much like his club, Baines has been in exceptional form in the past couple of months. Against Wigan Athletic on Saturday, the 27-year-old was marauding up the pitch, putting teasing crosses into the box and linking up superbly in an advanced attacking role with Steven Pienaar.

On current form, Baines is the closest an England team would have to Gareth Bale, who has been coveted endlessly by supporters and coaches alike since exploding onto the scene a number of years ago.

Thus it wouldn’t be unfair to Cole to suggest that while he is an exceptional defender, his conduct has placed him in an acutely vulnerable position with regards to Baines, who has long been second choice due to the ability of the man in front of him in the pecking order.

It should be Baines against San Marino – although it would hardly make a difference if he played or an academy junior – and if he performs to a reasonable level, it must be Baines for the foreseeable future.

Cole’s decision to so publicly air his views and refer to the organisation governing English football so derisively ought to be punished, but the greatest method of retribution is not a life ban, or immediate exclusion.

It is to force him to want to play for the country, not simply assume he is untouchable and an automatic starter.

With Baines in the form of his career, he cannot be ignored, while Cole being side-lined on merit, waiting desperately for that 100th cap, would well and truly force him to decide just how much he respects England, the FA and Roy Hodgson.