England full back says the game has changed immeasurably over the years, but not for the better.
Chelsea defender Ashley Cole has given his most revealing interview yet to the Green Soccer Journal in which the player discusses the pressures of playing for England and his joy at winning his 100th cap for his county.
The England international rarely gives interviews to the public these days, especially after the full back was booed by his own supporters after making a mistake that led to a goal in an international against Kazakhstan at Wembley Stadium five years ago.
“As players, of course it’s hard. You don’t want to hear it. I recognise though that we’re there to do a job and I’m representing my country,” says Cole.
“When I’m playing I’m able to block it out. No players want to hear their own fans booing the players, booing the team, but football is a hard game and you can’t win everything.”
However, the 32-year-old also admits to being extremely proud at his achievement of reaching 100 capos for his country, a feat he managed in a friendly against Brazil at Wembley in February, 12 years after he made his debut for the Three Lions.
“To put on an England shirt to represent your country is a great honour. That feeling never changes. But the 100th game was different though,” adds Cole.
“I was a little bit overwhelmed giving interviews before the match and nervous going into it, so I probably didn’t play as well as I have for England.
“The nerves, seriously, it’s probably the first time I’ve been that nervous in any game, but I had a lot of fun.
“And, of course, playing against Brazil, it was a big occasion, the result was good and in the end you can look back and say you played 100 games for your country, and that’s an amazing achievement.”
But the left back goes on to say that the game has changed immeasurably since he made his Premier League debut for Arsenal in the 1999-00 season, and not for the better either.
“I’d say it has changed from when I first started out as a player, but what can you do?” Cole asks.
“I think there are more opinions in football today, that more people have strong opinions and they’ll tell you what they think of you without actually realising what you’ve achieved and how good you are.
“I know that if I walked into someone’s house or their office and I watched them at work I’d probably say, ‘You’re not doing that right’ too.
“I might not really know what it is that they’re doing but I’m watching them do it so …
“As players we understand it: of course they pay their money to come, of course they’ve got a right to air their feelings, to say what they feel or say what they see, basically.”
In total, Cole has made 554 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Chelsea since 1999, scoring 17 goals in the process.