Ashley Cole was initially one of our most unpopular signings ever when he arrived from the Marble Halls of Mordor as part of the Gallas deal in 2008. Being an integral part of a (successful) Arsenal team was always going to be a hurdle to over-come in itself, but he was also replacing a then very popular Wayne Bridge and to add insult to injury we were losing one half of our central defensive power house pairing – and for what? A player that one of our direct rivals had obviously had the best out of and was now happy to discard.
Now, with hindsight we can look back and laugh – Wayne Bridge is about as popular with Chelsea fans as genital warts, Gallas’s football capacity and mental fortitude seemed to diminish horribly as soon as he left SW6, and as for Ashley Cole being past it – a league title, four FA Cups, a Europa Cup & a Champions League would prove different.
An average first season gave us little indication of just how consistently excellent he would prove to be or how he would be an integral pat of one of the best defences in the Premier league.
Ashley Cole makes defending look effortless – even now at the ripe old age of 33 he could quite easily command a first team place in almost any team in the Premiership – but not ours it seems -mores the pity. I do wonder had he been here during Mourinho’s first tenure would he have been offered a contract extension which would have tempted him to stay – I guess we’ll never know.
Despite his stellar club career, and his 107 international caps he remains generally disliked by “neutral” football fans. This is largely due to the way in which the press have portrayed him, his “celebrity” lifestyle, his failed marriage to the “nation’s sweetheart” & professional Geordie Cheryl Cole (kept the surname then) and for the fact that he chose to leave the club associated with old money, tradition and the Corinthian spirit to join the nouveau riche upstarts. Cole, rather than play media game and try and win their approval, chose to treat them with the disdain they deserved and had little to do with the written press for a good decade or so.
This is what I admire about Ashley Cole most – he is his own man – many claim to be, but are too concerned about their public persona – Cole has walked his own path no matter what.
He has been a loyal servant and professional role model in his time at Chelsea (air rifles and youth players apart!) and has been pivotal in all the success we have enjoyed in the last eight years.
His diminutive frame belies his strength and competitiveness on the pitch; his goal line clearances sometimes defied the laws of physics; he has made some of the best players in the world look little better than Hackney Marsh stalwarts. He has consistently given 100% every time he pulled on that blue shirt and in doing so has won over the Chelsea faithful.
In our final game of the season in Cardiff the chant of “Ashley Cole, Ashley Cole, Ashley Cole” started fifteen minutes before the final whistle from the travelling support; we fans were aware that this was more than likely the last time we would see this ridiculously talented player in our colours and we had to impart in the only way open to us what he had meant to us and the club. As the final whistle went we got louder and louder and he seemed over-whelmed by this show of support just for him. Even the rest of the players knew that this was Cole’s moment and Andre Shurrle physically picked him up and carried him towards the crowd – it was an emotional scene.
Later that evening he tweeted “To the fans that have stood buy me through thick and thin, I will always have you in my heart.” There will be the usual arguments of what constitutes a legend, but for me a player who loved the club and its fans, was loved and respected back, was successful, professional and dazzlingly talented can only be regarded as a legend in my book. His tears in his final game at the Bridge showed Chelsea will indeed always be in his heart, and excuse my perhaps overly emotional ramblings, but I believe his place in our hearts is guaranteed too.
So farewell Ash – it’s been emotional – none more so than that night in Munich – good luck and thank you – a true blue hero.
Posted by Trizia
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