Wednesday, February 06, 2013


100 not out: The Chelsea man is looking forward to making his 100th England appearance tonight
Chelsea and England defender Ashley Cole talked about his pride as he prepares to earn his 100th cap for England when they take on Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday. 

Cole made his national team debut in March 2001 against Albania and will become the seventh England player to reach a century of appearances when he lines up against Brazil. 

‘I am proud to play for England,’ said Cole. ‘From being a little boy from the East End, you would never think you’d get a chance to represent your country.

'I’m proud, privileged and overwhelmed by how many times I have played. I never expected to play for England. To play for the 100th time is amazing. I hope it doesn’t stop here.’

Eleven years ago, Cole was on an exercise bike at Arsenal’s training ground when Arsene Wenger strolled up to tell him he was in the senior England squad.

‘I didn’t believe him,’ said Cole, who was barely established in the Arsenal team at the time but he was inspired by the words of his hero David Rocastle and he seized his chance. Rocastle, who died three days after Cole’s England debut, won the last of his 14 caps against Brazil in 1992, a coincidence Cole might savour tonight.

‘I supported Arsenal and he was someone I wanted to be like and play like,’ Cole said. 

‘I got the lucky chance to meet him, with him speaking to me for five minutes. After that he was all I wanted to be. I look back and think what a great career I’ve had. I will never forget speaking to him.’

Like Steven Gerrard, who reached his century in Sweden in November and who will be presented with a ‘Golden Cap’ tonight to mark the achievement, Cole has shone through an era defined by disappointment.

Unlike Gerrard, he has never truly been cherished by the public, criticised for the nature of his move to Chelsea and behaviour during the public breakdown of his marriage to Cheryl.

‘In football you can’t always have it your own way,’ said Cole. ‘You can’t always have the good times. Fans booing me is normal now. It is something I have to deal with. I have learned to deal with it. I’ve gone past the stage where it fazes me. I don’t want to sit here and keep going on about wanting to be loved. I’m here to play football.’

From the moment he was struck by a lipstick case hurled from the crowd on his debut in Albania, it ought to have been clear this would be an England career less ordinary.

There have been tears and jeers and individual excellence. Penalties missed and scored, 99 starts and one never-to-be-forgotten display against Cristiano Ronaldo.

Last autumn, approaching a milestone passed only by legends, he branded the Football Association bosses a ‘bunch of t***s’ as if to prove his enduring talent for controversy.

The game against Brazil will be a warm-up for England's two World Cup qualifiers in March against San Marino and Montenegro. 

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