Ashley Cole has been named as the England Supporters Player of the Year for 2010.
Supporters, in a poll on the FA’s website, voted for Cole after his consistently good performances for his country in 2010, and Cole, who will move onto 87 caps for his country in tomorrow evenings friendly against Denmark, was very pleased to have won the award, having not always been a favourite with the England fans.
“It feels amazing to win the award. It came as a big surprise to me” Cole told FATV.
“But I’m very privileged and proud and thankful to the fans. It’s been hard for me at times, but now I think I’ve got their appreciation and I’m very grateful.”
However, the left-backs winning of this award is a sad indictment of our national side.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of the Chelsea left-back. He is quite simply the finest left-back in world football and was outstanding throughout 2010, both for club and country, quite rightly being named in UEFA’s Team of the Year for the same period and is the standout deserving winner of this fans award.
Cole, 30, would be an outstanding addition to any side in the world – he would walk into any Premier League side, aswell as both Real Madrid and Barcelona’s, largely seen as Europe’s main players in this seasons Champions League, starting XI’s unquestionably.
But the sadness is that you cannot say the same of any of his England team-mates, certainly without the same degree of authority and certainty.
For Cole is England’s only genuine world-class performer. There are people with the opinion that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, in particular, should be branded with the “world-class” tag, but they, on more than one occasion, have been the main protagonists amongst the so-called “Golden Generation” who have let their country down when they have been needed – Gerrard most notably at the 2006 World Cup, Rooney at the 2006 & 2010 World Cup’s, in 2010 he was particularly non-existent.
Whilst both have notably put in performances when needed for their clubs – Gerrard in the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham and the 2005 European Cup final against AC Milan, Rooney in the 2009 Champions League semi-final against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium – they have been found wanting when needed to inspire their country.
And they aren’t the only ones.
On the biggest stage too many of England’s players have failed, have been found wanting.
You can count on two fingers the players who have in the past 10 years been impressive in the biggest matches on the biggest stage – one is Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender, impeccable at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups (his leadership and defending in the ill-fated 2006 quarter-final against Portugal was awe-inspiring for any would-be defender) – the other is Cole.
It has been an era of overhyped players, who we have to question, do they perform so well for their clubs in the Premier League because of the foreign players that surround them.
I argue that in the case of all but Cole and Ferdinand, whose formidable partnership alongside Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford is certainly a two-way street, the answer is yes.
Gerrard hasn’t looked half the player in a Liverpool shirt since Xabi Alonso, the man whose ability to find a killer pass often found Gerrard in space in the final third to produce a moment of quality, left for Real Madrid.
John Terry has been an outstanding defender for Chelsea in their era of domination, but how much of that has been due to having Cole to his left and the outstanding Portugese defender Ricardo Carvalho, whose reading of the game is superb, by his side.
Frank Lampard has prospered at Chelsea, making forward runs galore and scoring goals, knowing that first Claude Makelele, and now Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel sit behind him.
Rooney was terrific in an attacking side that made use of Cristiano Ronaldo’s breathtaking pace and ability on the counter-attack. Post-Ronaldo, and in a side that can’t stretch the play as much without a genuine speed merchant in it’s ranks – especially since Luis Antonio Valencia has been injured – teams have figured out how to negate Rooney, although injuries have also taken their toll.
The national side has been a series of failures in the last few years, none more so than the dismal 4-1 defeat by a vibrant young Germany team at the World Cup in South Africa last year, when the supposed England stars and their team-mates, messrs Barry, Heskey, Defoe, Upson and Johnson, were shown to be distinctly average.
There are now some good young players coming through – the likes of Jack Wilshere who has broken into the Arsenal team and the prodigious young midfielder Josh McEachran at Chelsea – but we must be careful not to overhype them the way we have others who have gone before.
Because otherwise, we’ll be left with another decade of bitter disappointment.
And another ten years like the ten that we have just seen, will be a more damning indictment on the standard of the national side, than the fans voting in as their Player of the Year the man who they have damned more than any other, could ever be, and could spend the end of the England national side as any kind of force on the international stage.