This should be one the best weeks of Ashley Cole’s professional career, but not for the first time for the Chelsea left back, it might be overshadowed by controversy.
Cole, 31, on Monday reported for England duty ahead of World Cup qualifiers against minnows San Marino and away to Poland. If Cole features in both those matches, the defender would receive his 100th cap.
Having now represented England in three World Cups and two Euros, Cole would become only the sixth man to receive a century of caps for England and the first ever left back to do so. This should be a time to celebrate for Cole, but any champagne might have to be put on ice.
Before Cole can breathe in the rarefied air of the “100 cap cub,” there is the matter of an FA charge levied against him on Monday, which could effectively take him out of the England squad for the upcoming qualifiers.
Cole was charged with misconduct by English football’s governing body over an offensive tweet directed at the FA last week. This came on the heels of the release of a 63-page report by an FA-sanctioned independent commission that found Cole’s international and club teammate John Terry guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand on the pitch almost a year ago.
Though Terry had been given a four-match ban and a fine of 220,000 pounds for the abuse following a hearing, the commission’s findings and reasoning behind its judgment were only released this past Friday.
In the report that called Terry’s defence “improbable, implausible, contrived,” a segment was devoted to Cole’s testimony and found it to have “evolved” and been inconsistent.
This is what prompted Cole to turn to Twitter and lash out at the FA, wondering why his testimony was good enough for a court of law that exonerated Terry in July, but not for the FA.
Even though the tweet has since been deleted, Cole issued an apology and met with England manager Roy Hodgson. Discipline, likely in the form of a fine, will still be meted out.
Some, like former England striker Alan Shearer, are calling on Hodgson to drop Cole from the San Marino and Poland qualifiers as swift punishment for his insolence.
What makes this all the more ridiculous is that this isn’t the first instance of a contentious tweet related to the Terry/Ferdinand affair that had the FA involved.
Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand, older brother of Anton and Terry’s partner in the England central defence for several years, was fined 45,000 pounds by the FA in August for re-tweeting a follower’s racially insensitive remark aimed at Cole for allegedly selling his younger brother out.
For an athlete, Twitter represents a fantastic medium to connect directly to fans, but it’s also a great way to indulge in all sorts of foolishness that can be detrimental to one’s career.
Cole isn’t the first player to fall into this trap and certainly won’t be the last, but what makes it more troubling for Cole is that it represents yet another incident that threatens to dwarf his sterling playing career.
Ashley Cole isn’t Joey Barton. This isn’t the case of an average player whose misdeeds are the only reason why he’s a household name. Cole is arguably the finest left back that England has ever produced, but he’s unlikely to have his name revered over time like Bobby Moore.
While he might not actively court controversy, it certainly seems like it at times for Cole.
In 2005, Cole was involved in England’s largest ever “tapping-up” scandal when he, then an Arsenal player, and his agent Jonathan Barnett met with Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho and Peter Kenyon over a potential move across London without the Gunners’ consent.
All parties received substantial fines for the meeting, but less than two years later, Cole swapped Gunners red for Chelsea blue and now the defender is about as welcome at Arsenal as an extra-large Dr. Pepper is in Michael Bloomberg’s office.
Just after his move to Chelsea, Cole married British pop star Cheryl Tweedy and the star couple could never seem to elude the paparazzi’s lenses or tabloid columns. Their four-year marriage crumbled in 2010 after Tweedy cited “unreasonable behaviour” on the part of her husband amid several reports of extramarital affairs by the England star.
In February 2011 at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, Cole shot a 21-year-old intern in the face with an air rifle.
After you digest the inanity of that sentence for a moment, let it be known that Cole profusely apologized to both the student and the club, claiming that he had no idea that the gun was loaded.
Even for a player of Cole’s calibre, his ability to generate headlines for actions off the pitch seem to trump those for his exploits as a footballer and this is something that cannot sit well with him.
While Cole’s anger over the FA report might be understandable, his reaction was not. Turning to social media to air a grievance of this nature wasn’t the smartest idea and using profanity certainly didn’t aid his cause. Instead of properly defending what he deemed to be a slight on his character, Cole’s response only served to pile on and provide ammunition to his detractors.
Cole is no longer a young man who can chalk up his behaviour to the indiscretion of youth. The player with the most FA Cup titles in history is a 13-year veteran and must carry himself like one and stop the nonsense.
If history doesn’t remember Ashley Cole as one of the best defensive talents of a generation, it will only be because his lack of proper comportment gave it something else by which to remember him.