England World Cup squad: 'Like me or not, it hurts to stop playing for my country', says Ashley Cole as he retires
Cole announced on Twitter that he had received the dreaded phone call from England manager Roy Hodgson to inform him he will not go to the World Cup
Monday 12 May 2014
It was with uncharacteristic grace and humility that Ashley Cole decided to bring an end to his international career after learning he would not be selected in England's World Cup squad.
As far as exits go, it was all pretty tame and contained little trace of the controversy that has dogged his career.
Four messages on Twitter confirmed what several media outlets had already reported - that arguably the best left-back of his generation would not be included in Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad for the plane to Brazil, with Leighton Baines and teenager Luke Shaw set to be selected in his stead.
"I got the call from Roy and agree England team should be about the young players. I think it best I retire from England team now," he wrote.
"We have a great manager and team and I wish them only success. I will be supporting them like a true fan. Thanks to everyone for everything.
"#Baines and #shaw are great players, proved this season, and are the future of this country, it was a pleasure to get #107 caps #eng."
It is his final tweet that will resonate most with fans up and down the country, though, as he said: "Like me or not, trust me it's hurt me to stop playing for my country #proud and #honoured."
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After all this is a man who used the same Twitter account in October 2012 to attack the Football Association in a foul-mouthed rant, while there have been numerous other misdemeanours, including accidentally shooting a work experience student at Chelsea's training ground in February 2011.
He has also hardly endeared himself to the general public at large too, with many still mindful of his declaration in his autobiography that he was left "trembling with anger" when his then club Arsenal offered him wages of £55,000 per week, which earned him the nickname "Cashley".
For all his foibles, though, it is hard to escape the assumption that England will miss his presence in Brazil this summer and he deserves to be lauded in the coming days for his contribution to his country, even though he won no international honours.
True, he has struggled to break into Chelsea's first team this year, yet he has rarely, if ever, disappointed in a Three Lions shirt.
Not many full-backs can claim they kept Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo quiet. Cole did that, not once but twice in Euro 2004 and then again two years later at the World Cup.
The 33-year-old is also a member of the prestigious 100-cap club and retires as the fifth most capped player of his country of all-time, with a record 22 of his 107 international appearances coming in tournaments, not missing a minute in the process.
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Inevitably with age, however, his aura has dimmed, and Hodgson has opted for youth over a wealth of experience, with Cole admirably admitting defeat on Sunday night.
A dignified international retirement will not be enough to forget his multitude of sins over the years, but at least the talk will be centred on his football ability in the next week - and that is perhaps the way it should be.
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