Roy Hodgson has warned Ashley Cole that the competition for his spot as at England’s first-choice left-back is "as great as it’s ever been".
The 65-year-old made sure to stress the ability of the Three Lions’ emerging full-backs, emphasising that the younger generation are not far off the standard being set by the more senior squad members.
He told reporters: "There are some very good young players coming on to the scene and the experienced players will find it harder and harder to fight off the challenge of these younger players.
"The interesting thing is there are more and more young players coming through - Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton at Spurs, [Ryan] Bertrand at Chelsea, Adam Smith at Spurs, [Kieran] Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson at Arsenal, Martin Kelly at Liverpool.
"We’re not going to be hide-bound to one or two players. We’ll have very good alternatives.
"We’re lucky that, alongside Ashley - who was regarded as the only left-back in England for many years - we have Leighton, who will always push him and some interesting younger left-backs, such as Kieran Gibbs and Ryan Bertrand.
"It’s been a problem position in many of the countries where I’ve worked, but now we’re very well-off. That’s encouraging.
"I would think the competition is as great as it’s ever been, even though Leighton has been around for a long time."
Cole has been at the centre of controversy recently, having taken to Twitter on October 5 to criticise the Football Association (FA) in the wake of their release of the report detailing the long-running case between Anton Ferdinand and John Terry.
Cole’s reaction invited speculation about his own international future, but with the player having since apologised for his actions, Hodgson claims the episode has been resolved and on-pitch matters are his only interest.
"We had the incident and the situation, and that was dealt with very clearly and quickly, and to the FA’s satisfaction," he added.
"The chairman made his views very clear. I’ve been allowed to concentrate on football and to work with AC on the field. That is all."