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Today’s post is dedicated to a reader of mine who asked the other day why when I wrote the preview for the Chelsea game that I used the term “He Who Should Not Be Named” instead of just his real name. Of course, we knew him as Ashley Cole. Used to play for us but now is not. I am too lazy to write up anything regarding his past therefore I’m copying the background on him from Wikipedia.
Cole started his career by joining his local club, Arsenal, whom he had supported as a child. At the age of 18, on 30 November 1999, he made his first team debut in the Worthington Cup against Middlesbrough. His Premier League debut came on 14 May 2000 against Newcastle United. Cole caught a lucky break after an injury to Sylvinho, Arsenal’s established left-back, in the autumn of the 2000–01 season gave Cole the opportunity to establish himself in the first team. He remained first-choice in the position even after Sylvinho’s recovery.
With Arsenal, he won the FA Premier League twice (in 2002 and 2004), and the FA Cup three times (in 2002, 2003 and 2005, scoring in the penalty shootout in the final of the latter). Although injured for much of the 2005–06 season, he recovered in time to play in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League Final defeat to Barcelona at the end of the season. In total he made 228 first-team appearances for Arsenal, scoring 9 goals.
Cole had a very good season in 2004–05. Cole scored his first goal of the season in the seventh game in a tough trip to Manchester City in which he scored the opening and only goal to give Arsenal an important win. He scored his second goal in a 3–1 away win to Aston Villa, scoring Arsenal’s third in only the 28th minute. Cole, however, was also involved in a transfer saga with Chelsea. He was found guilty of making contact with league rivals Chelsea over a possible move, without informing Arsenal. He was fined £100,000 by the Premier League on 2 June 2005 for a tapping-up meeting at a hotel in January 2005. Cole, his agent Jonathan Barnett, the Chelsea manager José Mourinho and chief executive Peter Kenyon were present at the meeting. An appeal in August 2005 did not reject the guilty verdict, but his fine was reduced to £75,000.
On 18 July 2005, Cole signed a one-year extension to his contract with Arsenal, but just a year later departed from the club in acrimonious circumstances. On 15 July 2006, Cole launched a verbal attack on Arsenal; in his autobiography, quoted in The Sun, he claimed that the Arsenal board had treated him as a “scapegoat” and that they had “fed him to the sharks” over the tapping-up affair while Arsenal, from their part, insisted that they were legally obliged to punish Cole for his illegal contact with Chelsea. Cole was deliberately left out of Arsenal’s 2006–07 team photograph, fuelling press speculation that he would leave.
The rest of course is history. He eventually left at the death of the transfer window with William Gallas moving the other direction from Chelsea. This was over a mere sum of £5000, if we are to believe the rumours. What change in the latter years of Cole’s term at Arsenal that made him regard a difference of £5000 to be so important, I would never find out.
This was a player who was a fan before he became aware that he is any good in football. Someone who came through the youth academy at Arsenal and obviously many fans can identify it when someone local makes the breakthrough. This was a man who embodied everything that the club is, the fighting spirit and the desire to win. This was a man who was suppose to take over the mantle of the captain when Patrick Vieira finally accepts the calling of a foreign club. Least of all, this was a man who was the best left back in the world.
Of course, the title doesn’t belong to him now. A great player is someone who professional to the very last. Someone like Dennis Bergkamp who eats and breaths football with the skills that even most professional wish they have. Yet, even for Bergkamp, he knew he was not bigger than the club. He accepted the one-year contracts with such humility that belies his quality. If such a great player can be so humble, who is Cole to act like a child towards the club that gave him everything. Where is the loyalty?
Given the status that he was at that time, he could’ve walked into any club in the world. Why did he chose to stay in London and join Chelsea? His hero status among fans was turned almost overnight when the news broke. Most of us were hurt that someone whom we love and we know loves the club as well, can turn his back on the club over monetary matters. For someone earning as much as he did, the difference in what was offered and what he demanded hardly mattered.
How can he expect the club to protect him when go goes behind the back of the club and meet with another club’s representative looking for a move away from Arsenal? Why should we protect someone who spits on our trust and love? Without someone like Arsene Wenger who encourages his full backs to bomb forward and support the attack whenever they can, we may never have seen Cole emerge from the shadows of reserve team football.
Just look at how Cesc Fabregas handle his transfer saga and how Cole went about his, and you ask us why we love Cesc and not someone who is formerly the best left back in the world, who is now an enemy.
Back to more current stuffs tomorrow. Till then, have a nice day.