With the World Cup fast approaching and Roy Hodgson running out of time to decide who should be in his 23-man England squad, the left-back spot, an area Ashley Cole has been occupying successfully for years, is arguably England's strongest at this moment in time. With this is mind, is there room for the ever-present Ashley Cole? I'm not so sure.
There's no doubting Cole's phenomenal ability in recent times. We've all seen it and he's impressed the whole of world football, being described as the 'best left-back in the world' by many. He's kept countless world-class wingers at bay and has rarely been made a fool of on the pitch. Skin Ashley Cole and you've done well.
Despite England's clear failings (best not to list them), Cole at left-back has practically been an automatic selection for England's managers, and rightly so. Is that the case these days though? Definitely not.
Cole is out of favour at Chelsea, with Mourinho preferring natural right-back Cesar Azpilicueta for the left-back role, leaving Cole sitting on the bench most games. For England, the emergence of Luke Shaw, Kieran Gibbs and Leighton Baines means Cole is by no means a certainty to make the plane to Brazil. Competition is strong, and for a player who's on his way down, and there's no disputing that, international retirement could be on the horizon and a Chelsea career could be in tatters come the summer.
Cole's attitude has always been in question over the years with him being involved in controversial, frankly silly episodes. He's not a man, how do I put this, who's shy or doesn't rate himself. Of course that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in an England and Chelsea dressing room that's very fragile and full of big characters, Cole can't be feeling too comfortable with the way things are panning out this season. The realisation that he's clearly on his way out must be starting to sink in, which could have a detrimental effect on those around him.
Clashes have been reported between him and Mourinho and there's strong suggestions his exit from the limelight this season could mean he's off to the MLS at the end of the season. With the emergence of Shaw, Gibbs and Baines, his England future hangs very much in the balance also.
There's no doubting there'll be plenty of takers for Cole, who's still class at the ripe old age of 33, but do England or Chelsea need him sitting on the bench and possibly disrupting things?
With two dressing rooms full of egos, a bruised Ashley Cole sulking in the corner isn't needed. His Chelsea exit is looking very likely at the end of the season and England also need to move on, thank him for all his magnificent efforts over the years, and let a potentially temperamental character wind things down and get some games under his belt elsewhere. Judging by Cole's recent body language, he himself would probably be all for the idea.
Ashley Cole has been a brilliant left-back for England over the years, but in Shaw, Baines and Gibbs we have the future three who will be battling it out for that left-back spot Cole has made his own over the years.
Cole hasn't been playing much this season and with Roy Hodgson clearly planning for the future, is there really a need to include Ashley Cole as a part of it? Does he really deserve, especially on current form, to go to Brazil ahead of someone who's had a fantastic season like Luke Shaw or Kieran Gibbs, for example? It's an obvious no for me.
Thanks for everything Ashley Cole, you've been immense, but you aren't needed anymore.
By Mark Lodden - Crystal Palace fan