Leighton Baines' international career is a textbook case of being born at the wrong time. Only four year's Ashley Cole's junior, he has been in the Chelsea left back's shadow the whole time, with Cole undroppable as one of England's handful of world class players.
However Cole will be 33 at the next world cup, and hasn't been quite as good this year as he has been in the past. There is also uncertainty over his future in London, with his contract expiring in the summer.
Baines is in the form of his life, and is an integral part of the Everton side that has started so strongly. At 27 he will still be more or less in his prime come the next World Cup, and his potency at dead ball situations is something that England have arguably lacked since the days of Beckham.
Even without Ashley Cole's recent outburst, there is a case for saying that Baines should be integrated into the team over this qualifying campaign, and take over as first choice left back for Hodgson's side.
Given that Cole has given Hodgson a further dilemma with his actions, there is even more of a case for turning to Baines, though Cole should be given the chance to get the two caps he needs for 100 at some stage.
Left back is one of the areas of the England team that has real strength in depth. Keiran Gibbs has also been in excellent form with his club this season, and could have a case for replacing Cole if he is left out.
However missing out Baines would be a mistake, and would also be grossly unfair on a man who has waited so long for his chance. If the Everton man doesn't perform well in the qualifying campaign then maybe Gibbs can be given a shot, but Baines has to be the next in line.
He fits well with the Hodgson set-up of hard-working, unostentatious players, and has the defensive and attacking attributes to play as a expansive fullback or one who stays at home.
You'd expect that the selections for the upcoming games against San Marino and Poland won't be the final word on Ashley Cole's England career.
But away from all the drama, Baines is an excellent player who should maybe be first choice on merit even without Cole's self-sabotage, and should be given a run in the side.
image: © wonker