Ashley Cole, who will turn 32 in December, has been a Premier League player for 12 years, spending half of these at Chelsea and racking up 185 appearances for the European Champions in the process. Throughout much of his career, he’s been an integral part of the England national set-up, and the World Cup qualifier against Poland next month could mark his 100th cap for his country.
A left-back by name, by nature Bertrand’s versatility has often seen him occupy a more advanced position on the pitch at Chelsea with Cole occupying the full-back role. With Cole’s experience and presence both in attack and defence (including a rare, match-winning goal against Stoke City this weekend), Bertrand may find it difficult to uproot the long-standing international just yet, and for the time at least may have to get used to bench-warming duties. Whilst he may get ample chances during domestic cup matches, or be used as a substitute where ties have either been put to bed or need a fresh injection, Bertrand may have to wait out Ashley Cole’s retirement for his chance at left-back.
Bertrand, eight years Cole’s junior, will undoubtedly get his chance to shine in the coveted left-back role, but questions point to when this will be and for now he has only been given substantial chances as a winger. With Cole on the scene, Bertrand must be forced to wait patiently on the sidelines for his time to come. Whether this be in weeks, months or years is a decision only Roberto Di Matteo can make, but as long as restlessness won’t get the better of him, he can strive as Chelsea’s future left-back once Cole does hang up his boots.
Bertrand has been patient thus far. Since joining the club from Gillingham in 2005, he’s had loan spells spanning from Bournemouth to Oldham Athletic, Norwich City, Reading and Nottingham Forest before returning to Chelsea in 2011 where he has remained to serve a constant reminder to Ashley Cole that he is ready and waiting.
His playing career has improved dramatically since signing for Chelsea, and now a regular feature on Chelsea’s matchday team sheets, he has been a star performer for the West Londoners. Bertrand became the first player in the Champions League era to make a debut in the final, as he played the first 70 minutes before being forced off injured during their historic triumph against Bayern Munich in May. He also proved clinical during the Community Shield in August, scoring his first professional goal for the club against Manchester City.
Approaching 32, Ashley Cole may still have a number of strong years ahead of him at Chelsea, but with Ryan Bertrand breathing down his neck it may not be long until the makeshift winger is rewarded a regular place in Chelsea’s defence. Nigel Winterburn lasted until 39 – for Bertrand’s sake, he’ll be hoping Cole doesn’t replicate the feat and he can get his chance to shine sooner rather than later.