At 33 years of age, Ashley Cole is yet to exit the mind of most who are preparing an assembly of the Premier League’s greatest players. Few have equalled the Chelsea and former Arsenal left-back’s accomplishments since the league’s inception, and Cole’s inclusion in the Chelsea team of late, enforced through injuries, proved that he isn’t ready to permanently step out of the limelight just yet.
In fact, Cole’s expiring contract has alerted a host of top clubs around Europe. Real Madrid were touted as a destination, while closer to home it appeared as though Liverpool were looking to make a move for the veteran full-back. Most players of Cole’s age and assumed declining ability would be on their way to the MLS to see out their remaining days, rather than interesting title-challenging, European clubs.
It’s a testament to Cole’s professionalism and quality that he put in such a high-class performance in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Anfield on the weekend. Most players who had gone without first-team football for so long would have understandably been susceptible to at least one costly mistake. The left-back, now on the fringes of Jose Mourinho’s team after being dropped at the tail end of 2013 for Cesar Azpilicueta, is at the very least a hugely reliable member of the squad.
It’s to the extent now that Mourinho himself, initially thought to be at the end of his tether with the left-back, is championing Cole as an addition in England’s World Cup squad. Mourinho, clearly impressed by the efforts of Cole both at Liverpool and away to Atletico Madrid, may just be thinking a little longer term with the England international, seemingly convinced that any dip in form can be countered through intermittent use.
Roy Hodgson may also be convinced in the coming weeks. Luke Shaw, Leighton Baines and potentially Kieran Gibbs could be the England manager’s options this summer, but a veteran presence may be desired under the immense pressure of a South American World Cup.
That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best choice to take ahead of an individual who is likely to be a feature of England’s team for the foreseeable future. Consistent and reliable, Cole is absolutely that. The debate should be whether older heads such as Cole are required in the shift towards a more youthful squad.
Considering that in his prime Cole was the perfect full-back, well above competent at both ends of the pitch, it may be accurate to say he’s been England’s most consistent performer during the ‘Golden Generation,’ and certainly one of Chelsea’s over the past eight years. Among his qualities has been his cool head in heated temperatures, never fazed by the big occasion, something that may just factor into Mourinho and Hodgson’s decision to retain his services for the immediate future.