The mindless abuse of Ashley Cole has become one of the rituals of modern football. The Chelsea and England defender is seen by many supporters as the embodiment of all the greed and avarice that characterises the national sport.
He is the most recent member of that select band of players who have been booed playing for England, when a slip during a 5-1 victory over Kazakhstan in October was the prelude to loud jeers every time he touched the ball.
Cole, who has 71 England caps, has accepted now that he will always be hated by many supporters for his book that detailed how he almost crashed his car in shock after hearing of Arsenal's contract offer of "only" £55,000 a week.
And as his attentions turn once again to international duty, with a trip to Kazakhstan for Saturday's World Cup qualifier, he accepted his form has not always been as good as it should have been for England. In fact, in his own words, it has been "shit".
He has vowed, however, to try to win England fans over with improved performances for the national side, now that he has recovered fully from a long-standing ankle injury.
"I just couldn't do it," Cole said. "I played with it in the World Cup and I was shit, so I just wanted the injury finished and then I could get back to my best. This is the best I've felt. I just knew that when my ankle was better I would be able to run.
"I did it at Arsenal," admitted Cole, who quit the Gunners for Stamford Bridge in 2006. "I didn't want to come to Chelsea and have the operation straight away. It did affect me and I shouldn't have done it. There were times when I didn't enjoy it.
"But I knew that once my ankle was better, I would be able to run. The manager [Jose Mourinho] wanted me to attack, but I couldn't do it.
"I've got two ankles I can run on, that's the reason I'm playing well. I can run up and down again and I can kick the ball again."
Cole is abused at every away ground in the country, and sometimes by England fans. Many supporters feel he is just getting what he deserves, for his perceived greed in moving to Chelsea from Arsenal three years ago. He has reiterated many times how he feels his motives have been misunderstood.
Cole finished his best season at Chelsea as the official man of the match in Saturday's FA Cup final victory over Everton. The attacking verve that characterised his play during his time at Arsenal has returned, without a loss of defensive responsibility.
Yet Cole has resigned himself to accepting that even if he carries that form into international duty there are certain sections of the England support who will never warm to him – even if he scored the winning goal in the World Cup final.
"That's life," Cole said. "I will get on with it and, hopefully, I will change a few minds.
"I have been booed but everyone knows it wasn't about football, so there is nothing I can do. I can just try to show people I can play as well as I can to change opinion.
"I feel like I am enjoying my football the most and if I play well then I will change peoples' minds. I just want to win things, hopefully, with England. If I score the winning goal for England at the World Cup, then maybe they will like me again."
The abuse has become something Cole has learnt, however reluctantly, to accept. He revealed his attitude is not to let it bother him.
"I think I have played with a smile on my face," Cole said. "There are times when you don't like it, just like any job. There were times when I didn't enjoy it. But now I feel fit, this is the best I have felt, not just here but at Arsenal as well."Reuse content