Web Stories Thursday, May 23

Newly inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame, Ashley Cole has revealed he was an “angrier” player focussed only on winning when he made his infamous transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea.

In one of the most controversial moves in Premier League history, Cole left his boyhood club for the nouveau-riche Blues in 2006, with the two clubs embroiled in a particularly intense rivalry. It was a clash of philosophies off the pitch and on it – epitomised by managers Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

The former England international was pictured in a meeting with Mourinho and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon while still an Arsenal player, leading to fines for both the player and club for breaking league rules.

In his autobiography some years later, Cole stated he was left “trembling with anger” and nearly drove his car off the road after hearing of the Gunners’ contract offer to keep hold of him was just £55,000 per week – a figure the West Londoners reportedly doubled.

Arsenal fans never forgave him, with subsequent trips to Stamford Bridge seeing fake banknotes with Cole’s face printed on them raining down from the away end. However, he would have the last laugh.

Indeed, the legendary left-back went on to win a Premier League title, four FA Cups, the Champions League, Europa League and League Cup during his time with Chelsea – a period in which Arsenal won one FA Cup.

Reflecting on his time with both clubs, Cole exclusively told TNT Sports’ Jaydee Dyer that his favourite moment for Arsenal was not the double or the historic unbeaten league title, but rather his debut.

Cole said: “When you retire, you respect both clubs immensely. The joy I had at Arsenal, my boyhood club – it gave me everything and I’ll never, ever forget that.

“In terms of a magic moment, even though I won trophies, it has to be making my debut at Highbury. As a kid, walking up that Highbury Hill and into that marble hallway, it gives me goosebumps. Going through those massive black doors, how tight the pitch was, I lived the dream.

“I never expected at 18 to be playing for Arsenal. All that hard work is gifted with an opportunity. The minute you play for Arsenal, you understand there’s more hard work, it’s going to be a long road. But the feeling of putting on that shirt was very satisfying. It was an incredible feeling.

“After a while, it becomes a job where you have to win. It’s not about the trophies in this instance – my magic moment has to be making my debut.

“At Chelsea, I had a different kind of mentality. I was angrier when I went there. I played with more anger. I wanted to win, it was all about winning. My magic moment was winning the Champions League.”

Having starred for both clubs during their golden eras, as well as racking up a century of international caps, Cole is widely recognised among the finest full-backs of all-time.

However, he’s under no illusion as to how difficult the modern-day player in his old position has it, with the technical demands now being akin to that of an attacker. The 43-year-old has picked out four current Premier League stars that exemplify the role – in particular hailing Tottenham Hotspur youngster Destiny Udogie.

In his TNT Sports exclusive, Cole continued: “I felt the way I played, I was good defending my box, in the middle third I was good, in the attacking third I was decent, but playing with more width. Now full-backs have to be good enough to play inside, be comfortable receiving with players behind them.

“I think I could’ve done that, but football has evolved and changed. Full-backs now, do they take more responsibility defending? No. But is that due to the effect of managers wanting them higher up? I don’t think it’s a bad thing to see full-backs going inside and overloading.

“You have to be better in all areas of the pitch. Technically, you have to be better than my generation of full-back, which you have to applaud and give credit to the top ones – Trent [Alexander-Arnold], Reece James, [Andy] Robertson, bombing up and down, and can do everything. Udogie at Tottenham I think is elite.”

Cole, now England Under-21 assistant manager under Lee Carsley, was this week inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame alongside Andy Cole and former teammate John Terry.

TNT Sports presents the premium live sports rights previously carried by BT Sport including the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Conference League, Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Investec Champions Cup, EPCR Challenge Cup, MotoGP, Cricket, UFC, Boxing and WWE. The streaming home for TNT Sports in the UK is discovery+, where fans can enjoy a subscription that includes TNT Sports, Eurosport and entertainment in one destination. You can also watch TNT Sports through BT, EE, Sky, and Virgin Media.

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