Sam Wallace: A righteous anger that was hitherto absent

Punishing people on the basis of their private lives is a tricky business indeed

There must be very few people who currently have reason to feel deeply grateful to Ashley Cole – apart from, that is, John Terry, from whom Cole is currently drawing fire in spectacular fashion.

It is only 18 days since Terry's sacking as England captain was announced and the Chelsea skipper was firmly installed in the court of public opinion as the nation's villain du jour. Fast-forward to today and it is Cole who finds himself vilified over the allegations that he cheated on his wife, Cheryl Cole.

While Chelsea stood firmly behind Terry as the media firestorm raged around him they seem to have taken a different attitude towards Cole. The allegations that he used club officials to help him in his philandering seem to have lit a righteous anger in the club that was hitherto absent.

Say what you like about Ashley Cole – and most people do – but what goes on in the privacy of his marriage is not anyone else's business, not even his employer. Punishing people on the basis of their private lives is a tricky business because no outsider can ever be certain of the full details.

Roman Abramovich and Carlo Ancelotti have both gone through separations, in the owner's case the tally stands at two divorces, the second rather expensive. Peter Kenyon, the former chief executive, had a similar count. None of us would presume to judge them precisely because, as with Cole, we have no idea what went on.

If Cole's crime is that he broke the rules at Chelsea then he is not the only one. In fact, his very signing at Chelsea was facilitated by Kenyon and the then manager Jose Mourinho running roughshod over the regulations governing transfers. But Chelsea did not censure either of them, it took the Premier League to do that.

Cole may also wish to point to Chelsea's swift exoneration of Terry over allegations that he was paid £10,000 to show an undercover reporter around Chelsea's training ground in the company of a well-known ticket tout. Terry claimed that the money went to charity and the club found no evidence of wrongdoing. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Cole's chief crime, in the eyes of a critical public, seems to be that he has blown a marriage with a woman who has been publicly venerated to levels unseen since Florence Nightingale was doing her ward rounds in the Crimean War. But however annoying it is for those people who regard him as an ungrateful little sod it is not the grounds for disciplining him.

If Chelsea had really wanted to set an example in decency they would have taken Cole to task for the way in which he arrogantly turned his back on referee Mike Riley at White Hart Lane in 2008. On that occasion the whole extent of the crime was obvious to see, but there was no action from the club. To his credit, an apology from Cole was forthcoming.

Cole does not have anything to apologise about over his marriage because only he and good Sister Florence know what goes on there. And if Chelsea want to start dishing out punishments according to sexual transgressions then everyone at the club, starting with the owner, had better put their cards on the table.

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