Cole's Past Catches Up With Him
It would be fair to say that Ashley Cole is not an overly popular fellow amongst the English public. Reasons for this are not too hard to find.
Could it be his reaction to a new contract offer from Arsenal (nearly swerving off the road upon hearing they thought he was worth "only" £55k a week)? Or maybe his sneaky, behind-your-back-Arsene hotel rendezvous with other clubs? Perhaps, for the romantics out there it is down to his downright baffling extra marital activities (who in their right mind would cheat on Cheryl Cole?!)
Maybe its all of the above. In any case, Cole has made himself hard to like in recent years. This is a shame because when it comes down to it he is still a top drawer footballer, something that despite the infernal hype England are not over burdened with.
Phil Scolari's arrival at Chelsea has also seen an unshackled Cole produce some of his best form for years. It came, therefore, as a surprise to see Cole commit such an error as he did against Kazakhstan, gifting the minnows a shock 68th minute goal.
The goal brought the game back to 2-1, with England still stuttering against their less heralded opposition. The error was unfortunate, but could not really be seen as a costly one by any level-headed individual: England would still go on and win the game.
Yet Cole's next few touches were greeted with a considerable chorus of boos from sections of the capacity crowd. This was an unsavoury and unnecessary, but an indication of Cole's standing in many football fan's eyes.
Had Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, or Theo Walcott committed Cole's honest mistake, it seems highly unlikely that they would then be subjected to the kind of treatment you would expect from an opposing crowd.
The boos twinged in me something I thought I was physically incapable of feeling: a pang of sympathy for Ashley Cole.
No footballer ever means to make a mistake when he steps onto the field, (with the possible exception of old spaghetti legs Bruce Grobbelaar), and to punish him for such a shortcoming is staggeringly unfair.
But more than that, those who booed need to realise that, as Rio Ferdinand mentioned after the game, such victimisation of one player has a negative impact on the whole team. A team that feels the fans clambering to get on their backs as soon as something goes awry isn't going to perform to the best of its ability.
Yes, footballers are well paid. Yes, it's frustrating when Gerrard doesn't ping it in from 30 yards like he does for Liverpool. Yes, Ashley Cole may be an individual you never want to get stuck in a lift with. But negative reactions from the stands are not going to win England the World Cup anytime soon.
Oh, and on the other end of the spectrum, neither are those undoubtedly well intentioned yet blackboard-scratchingly irritating chaps who insist on blasting out the theme from The Great Escape for The. Entire. Match.
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