The possibility that England will be without one of their most reliable performers in the vastly experienced Ashley Cole should be of little concern ahead of the upcoming World Cup Qualifying Group H face-off against Montenegro, with Leighton Baines having proved a more than able deputy.
Roy Hodgson’s side are 2/5 favourites for the vital Group H qualifying duel, with the former Yugoslav nation 11/2 and a draw nobody really wants 7/2.
The Everton man averaged more Premier League tackles, interceptions, goals and assists per game than Cole.
Cole’s England understudy actually outperformed him on many metrics in Premier League action last season.
Most armchair pundits would rightly suggest that Baines was more a potent attacking threat and the Merseyside lad gazumped his west London counterpart by the margin of four goals, three assists and a whopping 98 more scoring opportunities created.
However, perhaps more surprising was the fact that he also averaged 0.3 more tackles and as many more interceptions-per-game than the three-World-Cup-veteran.
Both fullbacks have seen the Three Lions give up just one goal in their last three competitive starts.
England’s defensive stability hasn’t been noticeably rocked during the 105-cap Chelsea stalwart’s recent absences from competitive action.
Both men have offered assistance towards the cost of keeping the laundry spic and span against Moldova, while also seeing their side allow a goal against a qualification rival in Ukraine (Baines) and Montenegro (Cole).
Baines has started 158 times alongside likely England defensive ally Phil Jagielka for Everton.
While they may seldom line up on the same side of the Toffees’ defence, working day-in day-out as part of the same defensive unit at club level has the potential to provide added coherence and mutual understanding to a changing national team rearguard, much as Cole’s connection with John Terry has done in the past.