Pearce: Ashley Cole is England's best-ever left-back

The 31-year-old has struggled for form alongside his Chelsea team-mates, but the temporary national coach believes that the defender will return to his best in time for Euro 2012

Ahead of Wednesday’s friendly with Netherlands, interim boss Stuart Pearce has labelling Ashley Cole “the best left-back to have ever played for England”.

The temporary national coach, himself a former left-back, heaped praise on the defender, who has recently struggled to find his best form in a stuttering Chelsea side.

Although rumours of a bust-up with club manager Andre Villas-Boas continue to circulate, the 49-year-old is full of admiration for the defender.

"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."

"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."

With Cole set to start, England are 9/5 to beat Netherlands with Paddy Power.

Despite consolidating his place as England's first-choice left full-back, Pearce did mention competition for places, in the form of Everton defender Leighton Baines.

"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."