WEEK by week, game by game. This is the mantra of Shannon Cole, for he cannot afford to look any further ahead than his next 90 minutes.Tonight, he will run out for Sydney FC against Adelaide and take his position at right back, 10 metres away from Simon Colosimo, the central defender who is in the type of form that could carry him back into the Socceroos.This time last year, Cole had already been called up to the national squad, despite playing just a handful of games in the A-League. This year, he fights a weekly battle to hold his spot at club level.Some may see it as a dramatic fall from grace, but that’s not fair on Cole, or his teammates. At the heart of the matter is a simple truth: Sydney FC have got much better.And unlike last year, when injuries and suspensions frequently affected the squad, competition for places is red hot.The only position the versatile Cole has been able to find at Sydney is at right back, where this year he has found stiff competition from a star young recruit from Melbourne Victory, Sebastian Ryall.Now that Ryall is back from suspension, Cole knows his place in the starting XI is something he can’t take for granted.”I guess he’s a good player so I can’t say ‘no, I’m not feeling it’,” Cole told the Herald . ”But it’s not a bad feeling. I like the pressure. I seem to play better when I’m under pressure. In football, you can’t be scared of challenges like that because if you are, you’ll never achieve anything. So it’s not something I can worry about, even if it’s definitely there.”Only once has coach Vitezslav Lavicka had all five of his top defenders available: the 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners in round nine. Cole was dropped to the bench that day, making a late appearance. But with Stephan Keller missing the subsequent match against Melbourne and now tonight’s clash with Adelaide, Ryall will shift into the middle, giving Cole another chance.If he responds as brilliantly as he did last week, Lavicka might have something to think about.”The team is the most important thing and you never forget that but the moment when you hear you’re dropped, it’s devastating,” he said. ”Then you have to figure out the situation and look at what you can do to prove yourself when that next opportunity comes.”So when I came off the bench against Central Coast, I didn’t have much to do but I wanted to show I could still fight for the team and fight for a spot. Then came Melbourne, and I was just so switched on and so determined.”Long-time observers of Cole have noted his willingness to get forward, which leads to questions about his position. A natural midfielder, Cole understands why some believe he would be better suited there, but he’ll be the last to complain.He knows he hasn’t mastered the right back position, but still enjoys the challenge.”There’s plenty to learn still and every game and every situation provides an opportunity to learn and get more experience under my belt,” he said.”Yes, I like to play further up the park with every opportunity that I get. When I have a good game, people seem to notice that I have been getting forward but if I can do the job defensively, why not do both?”If the dreaded time comes for Cole to be sent to the pine, at least he’ll be in good company. Former title-winning Jets Mark Bridge and Stuart Musialik were both on the outer at the start of the year but have now forced their way into the squad.”You only need to look at the type of players who’ve been left out of the squad completely and haven’t even been on the bench at times,” Cole said. ”It just shows how competitive it is here. Nobody’s giving an inch.”
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