'Conflicted' and defiant Ashley Cole won't take a stand either way in John Terry trial

Sam Wallace witnesses the usually taciturn full-back prove tough opponent in box

Westminster magistrates' court

Since Ashley Cole's occasionally chaotic private life became a preoccupation for gossip columns and glossy magazines, the sixth most-capped footballer in the history of the England team has retreated back from the spotlight, declining virtually all interviews.

Yesterday, as he walked into courtroom one of Westminster magistrates, with his team-mate John Terry behind the glass wall of the dock, and was sworn in by the clerk of the court, Cole, 31, one of the most successful players of his generation, had no willing press officer or agent to turn away the request for answers.

Cole's appearance as a witness in Terry's trial on allegations of racial abuse against Anton Ferdinand was always likely to be a key moment in the trial. Like Ferdinand, Cole is mixed-race and, as with Terry, he has played alongside Ferdinand's brother Rio – a "close mate", he said in court – in the England team for the last 11 years.

By his own admission yesterday, Cole "did not want to get involved" in this trial. He said that when the Football Association had first approached him for his account of events at Loftus Road on 23 October he had wanted to issue what he described as a "neutral statement".

Asked by the defence counsel George Carter-Stephenson QC towards the end of his questioning whether he felt there was a "conflict", Cole replied "Yes ... obviously JT is my team-mate and Rio, I have known him and his family for a long time."

But if the expectation was that Cole would be cowed by his day in court it did not take long for a man regarded as one of the best left-backs in the world, and demonised in other quarters, to assert himself. When the chief magistrate Howard Riddle told Cole that the court would "prefer it if you stood", Cole, by then seated in the witness stand, said he would rather sit down.

Dressed in a dark three-piece suit, wearing a diamond stud in his left ear and sporting his relatively recently-adopted Mohican-style haircut, Cole gave the rest of his evidence sitting in his chair.

He told Carter-Stephenson that Terry was a friend whom he might play a round of golf with or go out for a meal, although in the case of the latter usually in the company of other players. He described Terry as "one of the best captains around... inspiring" and also a "friend to everyone".

Cole said that he believed Ferdinand had said the words "'Bridgey'", "black" and "c***" during his confrontation with Terry during the game in question between Queen's Park Rangers and Chelsea. Terry claims that he sarcastically repeated the words "f****** black c***" back to Ferdinand when his opponent accused him of being racially abusive.

When Cole first had to utter the word c*** in court he hesitated and instead spelled it out one letter at a time. Riddle instructed him that he should say the word in its entirety. "You don't have to be shy." he said, in an attempt to be reassuring. Smiling, Cole replied, "I'm not shy".

Watching the footage in court of the evidence, Carter-Stephenson asked Cole why his mouth dropped open at a crucial point in the exchange between Terry and Ferdinand.

"I was either very hot or not happy at the words he was saying," Cole responded.

As for the conversation that took place in the away dressing room at Loftus Road after the match, Cole said that he could not remember much of what passed between Terry and Ferdinand. "I iced my ankles and had a shower," he said. "I was looking forward to going on a night out."

It was when he was cross-examined by the prosecution's lead counsel Duncan Penny, a Scot with a direct style, that Cole showed the kind of defiance that has characterised his playing style. He was not prepared to give Penny an inch, and if he was, then Penny was damn well going to have to work hard for it.

In reference to the sexual taunts from Ferdinand towards Terry, Penny said to Cole: "JT [Terry] should be respected". "That's got nothing to do with it," Cole replied. "He [Ferdinand] shouldn't be doing it on the pitch," Penny said. "Some people might think it's cool, I would say not," Cole replied. "It's humiliating," said Penny. "Inappropriate," said Cole. "Humiliating?" repeated Penny. "Same thing," responded Cole.

Penny also touched on Cole's own experience of having his private life as the subject of newspaper front pages as he explored the effect it might have on a famous footballer. "You've had lurid details of your life in the press, too. Not much fun, is it?" Penny asked. "No," replied Cole. "You don't like it," Penny said. "I'm a grown man," Cole said, "I can take it."

There was laughter in court when Penny sought to demonstrate the noise levels at Loftus Road that day in relation to Arsenal. "You've played for Arsenal," he said to Cole, "no one makes any noise at the Emirates do they?" Cole suggested that if he wanted to give an example of a quieter ground he would be better off with Wigan Athletic. "Let's not have that argument now," Penny said. "You're the one who brought it up," Cole responded.

When finally the prosecution cross-examination was over, Riddle thanked Cole for giving evidence – "I gather you didn't want to" – and said that he could leave the court. Cole departed the building soon after, accompanied by security. It could be some time before we hear him speak again in public.

Who was who in court

Witnesses giving evidence: Ashley Cole, David Richardson (Chelsea team bus driver)

Witnesses in support of Terry to court: Ray Wilkins, Bruce Buck

Statement: 'John Terry is not a racist': Salomon Kalou, Jose Bosingwa, Frank Lampard, Juan Mata & others

Statement in support of Terry: Ryan Bertrand, Jose Mourinho

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past