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Ashley Cole finds new lease of life at LA Galaxy

by 16/09/2017 20:17:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Ashley Cole has shown he isn't ready to hang up his football boots just yet 
  • Cole is building a reputation for himself in Los Angeles for not giving up 
  • His work ethic has been praised by by LA Galaxy's head coach Sigi Schmid 
  • 'He's not one of those guys saying: 'I'm older, I need a break here',' says Schmid 

By Matt Barlow for The Mail on Sunday

Published: 17:30 EDT, 16 September 2017 | Updated: 20:17 EDT, 16 September 2017

Nearly four years since Ashley Cole scowled down the lens for the benefit of his boot manufacturers and told the world 'I'm not done' and he makes an early exit from training.

Head down, trim as ever, he yanks a fistful of shirt from beneath his GPS-tracking vest to mop sweat from his face and he strolls from the palm-fringed pitches.

'I had to kick him off the field,' said Sigi Schmid, head coach of Los Angeles Galaxy. 'I thought he needed a break. Otherwise he would've kept playing.

Former Arsenal and Chelsea full back Ashley Cole has found a new lease of life at LA Galaxy
Former Arsenal and Chelsea full back Ashley Cole has found a new lease of life at LA Galaxy

Former Arsenal and Chelsea full back Ashley Cole has found a new lease of life at LA Galaxy

'He's not one of those guys saying: "I'm older, I need a break here". He's happy every day when he's on the field and he's an example to everyone with the way he conducts himself and the joy he gets from playing football. That's what I love about Ashley.'

Cole, it turns out, was right. He wasn't done. Just as he promised in his moody commercial for Nike, released in December 2013.

Yes, he lost his place in the Chelsea team and was omitted from the World Cup squad and there was an awkward 18 months at Roma, but a splendid career has flickered once again under California's blue skies.

Things might have gone better on the pitch. Cole missed a shoot-out penalty as Galaxy lost in the play-offs last year and this year has been a transitional struggle for the club.

Cole's form, meanwhile, has been typically consistent, winning over those offended when he originally shunned LA for Roma, claiming he was not ready to 'relax on a beach'. There was even a turn as a holding midfielder.

Cole in action against Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku in a pre-season friendly
Cole in action against Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku in a pre-season friendly

Cole in action against Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku in a pre-season friendly

'He has been one of the better left-backs in the MLS,' said Scott French, of the magazine FourFourTwo USA.

'A lot of people wondered if he had anything left and he's shown that he does. He's not the best left-back in the world anymore but he can play and he has been a real plus for the Galaxy in a year when they have had so many problems in the back-line.'

Cole lives near Hollywood with girlfriend Sharon Canu and their 18-month-old son Jackson.

Few players in the competition can boast more decorated careers and yet he is not one of the faces of Major League Soccer. In fact, he is not even the face of LA Galaxy.

Step into the club shop at the StubHub Center and it is all about Giovani dos Santos, the Mexican striker once of Tottenham and briefly on loan at Ipswich.

'No-one knows who I am here,' Cole told Sports Illustrated in June. 'I can walk down the street with my son. For sure, if I lived in England, 100 per cent, someone would be taking a picture.'

It was a rare and insightful in-depth interview, heavy with references to his public image and the way he feels his various mistakes have been seized upon over time and used to portray his personality as it never was.

Cole, it is clear, feels misunderstood and misrepresented. At the same time, his relationship with the British media is not one he values or has any inclination to repair.

Cole has built himself a reputation as LA Galaxy as a player who like to work hard
Cole has built himself a reputation as LA Galaxy as a player who like to work hard

Cole has built himself a reputation as LA Galaxy as a player who like to work hard

The upshot of which leaves English football with a silent legend. Only five players have won more England caps: Peter Shilton, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Bobby Moore.

'I don't really like seeing myself on TV doing interviews,' Cole told SI. 'I don't like speaking. I hate seeing myself in the newspaper. I never really spoke to the press. I wouldn't change that to be some kind of golden child.'

Even so, he belongs in exalted company and, at a time when full-backs are traded for fees in excess of £50million, it is worth recalling Cole is the best produced on our shores in the modern era.

Besides offering the chance to revive a fading football career, Los Angeles also presented a welcome opportunity to fade from public view.

'Here we are in Hollywood, a town with star power and paparazzi everywhere and Ashley is very much under the radar,' said French, who has reported on the Galaxy since they were formed. 'He's not a star compared to Tom Cruise but you just wouldn't know he was here.

'It's very different to when Beckham was here and there was that stuff all the time. He seems to be happy in his life.'

Cole often joins team-mates Brian Rowe, Dan Steres and Dave Romney for golf on a public course in Long Beach.

'You don't expect much from him but he's surprisingly good,' said goalkeeper Rowe. 'He finds his way round and he's competitive, he likes talking a bit of trash and gets some bets going. It's fun.'

Just as he was at Arsenal and Chelsea, Cole is hugely popular among his team-mates.

He has also impressed Galaxy officials with his readiness to respond to corporate and community requests and has shouldered his share of post-match media duties despite all his reservations.

'To be honest, he isn't what I expected,' said centre-half Steres. 'Even the size of him. I thought he was bigger.

'He was definitely a little different but in a good way. He's great socially, off the field, and on the field he sets standards and leads by example.

'The biggest thing for me is his zest for the game, the way he comes out every day. You can see he's excited to be here. Not everybody would be like that after the career he's had.'

Cole is 36 and his Galaxy contract will end next month with the MLS season. He will be 37 when the next campaign starts.

'He has gas in the tank,' said 'keeper Rowe. 'He could easily manage another couple of seasons here, not even having to grind it out. There's just something about the way he's made. I would love to have him back.'

Other factors in play however. He is not one of Galaxy's Designated Players and so operates within the salary cap.

For his services this season he will receive £290,000. For comparison, Dos Santos is on £4m and Kaka, at Orlando City, is the best-paid in the MLS on £5.5m.

If money remains a motivating factor, Cole can earn more in England playing in the Championship on an incentivised contract such as the one signed by John Terry at Aston Villa.

Interest from Harry Redknapp at Birmingham has been reciprocated, although Cole earned respect at the Galaxy by refusing to consider leaving in mid-season.

'We'll see,' said coach Schmid when asked about Cole's future. 'I don't know what Ashley's plans are.

'He still enjoys playing. He'll be the first to say he's not as quick as he was but he has a very good engine, he's very fit, he takes care of himself. As a player, you want to play for as long as you can and for Ashley that could be here.'

Galaxy, however, are braced for an extensive team rebuild and Cole takes a valuable international place.

'He still counts as a foreign player,' said Schmid. 'Some guys put in for their Green Card but that's not what Ashley wanted to do. That changes things a little bit. We have to see where we are with our foreign contingent.

'From the point of attitude and the leadership he brings to the locker room and ability to play, so it's definitely something we're going to consider.'

Earlier this year, Cole revealed a desire to return to Chelsea 'as a coach or a scout' when he finished playing.

'He'd be a good coach because he has a good temperament,' added Schmid. 'You have to be passionate and he loves the game, so that's a good start.'

Maybe he is ready to return home. Or maybe this is the juncture when retirement will appeal.

Maybe he is ready to relax on a beach and savour his achievements and the three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups and the Champions League.

Maybe this time he really is done. Maybe the very notion will make him scowl again.

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