Pearce lauds Cole talent

Caretaker coach expects England full-back to get back to his best

Ashley Cole: Chelsea and England full-back has received the backing of Stuart Pearce

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Stuart Pearce believes Ashley Cole can be considered the best left-back to have played for England and is confident the Chelsea defender will return to top form.

Cole is currently enduring a difficult period at Chelsea amid reports he was unhappy at starting last week's UEFA Champions League defeat by Napoli on the bench.

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has dismissed rumours of a bust-up with Cole, who was restored to the team for the weekend win over Bolton Wanderers.

The 31-year-old remains England's first choice at left-back and he is expected to start Wednesday's friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley.

England's caretaker coach Pearce is full of admiration for Cole and is adamant the former Arsenal man remains a key figure for the national team.

Outstanding

"He is an outstanding talent," Pearce said. "I have a great deal of respect for him because the fact I played left-back means I understand the position.

"He is the best left-back that has ever played for England. That is a fact."

Stuart Pearce

Quotes of the week

"He is the best left-back that has ever played for England. That is a fact.

"It is very difficult to maintain form over decades. You have ups and downs.

"He has consistently been a fantastic member of this squad and hopefully that continues for a long time to come because the one thing I know about Ash is he will come out fighting and will be back in the Chelsea side very quickly."

Baines threat

Pearce does accept, though, that Leighton Baines' form for Everton is providing the type of challenge Cole might not have encountered before.

"Leighton has done extremely well," he said. "Over the last two years he has developed and from there he is putting some pressure on Ash.

"But that is what you want in all positions in the squad, especially at this level. This is the peak of English football. You need pressure from all round.

"When young players put pressure on the older players, the older ones have to rise to the challenge. That is the nature of a football squad."