Here's the transcript of this edition of SportsJam with Doug Doyle featuring Ashley Cole:
Doug Doyle: We’re here in New York City for this edition of SportsJam, and what a special edition it is. Ashley Cole, the legendary footballer is here to talk to us about a special event coming up right after this interview. You’re heading over to Harlem to dedicate a new field. The kids are going to go crazy when they see Ashley Cole. Tell us how Chelsea F.C. gets involved in community activities like this.
Ashley Cole: Thank you for having me. Over the years, a lot of clubs or teams go to places in the preseason tours and they don’t leave anything behind. They play the game and then they go. There’s one thing with Chelsea, and this is why they’re close to my heart, every time we go on a preseason tour the players leave and then our foundation will stay to keep the legacy going for the club. We’re going to Harlem later to do an event with the pitch that the foundation has provided for the locals. It’s not just a club that comes and leaves. We try to leave stuff behind for the community. As we’ve been saying, we’re here to play and here to stay. We don’t just leave the places we visit. We try to leave legacies there.
DD: You have a little guy now, he’s twenty months old. You grew up in England, raised by your mom. You’ve done so many charitable things and you love giving back to the kids. Is that where it starts with mom and how she treated you to get you ready for an unbelievable career?
AC: For sure. I didn’t grow up with a lot. You have to keep level minded and level headed, respect where you’ve been brought up. I think doing these pitches is something that is close to my heart. I’ve been doing a lot of charitable stuff with Chelsea because as a club they do a lot as well. It’s nice to see the young kids, have a little kick around with them, and give something back to them as well.
DD: What has been the best comment from a kid that has touched your heart?
AC: I’m not too sure. It’s not that it’s always what they say. It’s just the kind of faces they make. They are just so happy to see you. We have little conversations with kids. They say they want to be like you. The best thing I can say to them is to just keep working hard. Don’t give up your school work because it’s very important. Progress and try if you want to be a footballer. Don’t give up. Everyone has a dream and I’ve been lucky enough to live mine.
DD: You’ve lived your dream really beyond your expectations because the team you grew up cheering for, Arsenal, that’s where you started this unbelievable career. Not many people get a chance to do that. When did it sink in that you had the talent to play at an Arsenal level?
AC: It probably wasn’t me that actually knew I had the talent to be good enough to play. It was the people around me who would mention that I’m actually good at this sport, that you’re actually good at soccer. I was brought up with my mom and my brother. We would smash the house up kicking whatever we could. Then someone mentions you are actually good enough to play. Probably around the age of fourteen or fifteen is when I took it seriously to be my job and my profession, to live a dream.
DD: Before I let my partner Ang Santos here on Sportsjam ask you some more specific questions, I heard you say before that you’ve smashed some things in the house. What was the most expensive thing that mom actually got upset about?
AC: Probably like a family photo. We didn’t have too many expensive things back then. It was a picture of the family and I took one for the team when my brother smashed it. I took the blame being the older brother. Got a little ass whooping if I can say that. It’s memories, my mom will never let me forget that moment. You always have that in the back of your head.
Ang Santos: Ashley thanks for being here with us. Ang Santos with WBGO on SportsJam. I have to ask you about a specific season in your career. 2011-2012 when you won the Champions League. Where was that on your list of things to do before you stopped playing football?
AC: I remember speaking to a lot of the players. We were all getting older kind of older in our thirties. You know the Champions League is one of the hardest trophies to win. We sat there and said this is the year. We have to do something special. We were all getting older and maybe we wouldn’t have another chance whether we were going to stay at Chelsea or not. We came together as a group and said this has to be a special year. We weren’t doing well in the league. Something magical happened that year. We didn’t do well to start the Champions League. We nearly didn’t make it through the group stage, rode our luck a bit in a few games and bang, we’re in the final.
AS: A famous match with Napoli and then with Barcelona.
AC: Yeah. If you look at the Napoli away fixture we were three-one down thinking that it was done. It’s over for us. Will we get another chance? We were all in the dressing room looking at each other. Everyone was so disappointed. Then we had the return leg. I’ve never been in that kind of atmosphere before in a changing room before that. We all had belief that we could do it. Three-one down against a good side in Napoli. You think it can’t be done. I knew before the game that we were going to do it. It’s not impossible. We had chances away but coming home and playing in Stamford Bridge with our fans behind us, we knew we could do it. What a game that was.
AS: What particular players, teams, and stadiums did you like to play in while you were with Chelsea? AC: Stadium wise I enjoyed playing against teams like Barcelona away is always a great atmosphere. We always seemed to do well there. Going back to the Premier League, places like Tottenham, a hostile atmosphere. We’re rivals and the fans are always up for it. I’d have to say the Emirates as well. AS: Who were some of your favorite teammates to face on the training grounds?
AC: I could give you players who I didn’t like to go up against. Hazard, Daniel Sturridge. Drogba, especially when it was cold. He was a little bit clumsy treading on your toes and stuff, it was like just stay away. We had a great set of lads there. I’d probably say Daniel Sturridge was one of the hardest one’s.
AS: What advice do you give to kids that want to do what you do for a living?
AC: Don’t give up the dream. There’s a lot of players that come up in the ranks with nothing. For me I had a lot of family and friends around me how said don’t give up. I nearly gave up around the age of thirteen-fourteen to be honest. But I had a good mom behind me, a brother who supported me and said listen this is your dream. You have one life. Do what makes you happy. My happiness was being out on a cold, wet, dirty pitch playing the game I love. Don’t give up, enjoy it.
Doug Doyle: Take us back to you being fourteen and you made a decision not to give up. People who know the player that you became probably think there’s no way he ever said that to himself. Take us back to that time. What were you thinking.
AC: At the time I was crazy with my Sunday league team. That’s what happens in England. You play for a Sunday league local team. Then I started playing for another local team and it was just beginning to be too much for me. One team wanted me to play for them, the other team for them. I was training with Arsenal. I had my school work. It was getting to be a little too much for me at that age. You want to live the dream and play soccer but will you be good enough was another thing in my head. So, do I try to live the dream or do more school work and try to concentrate a little more on that. My mom said do what makes you happy. You’re out there playing on the streets every day. Wherever you walk you always take your football. You seem happier doing that, not so much in school. In the end, I gave up one Sunday league team for another and enjoyed it. But that was a difficult decision at the time.
DD: Fans sometimes don’t understand. They want you to be loyal. They want you to play forever for their team. We see it in the NBA with Kevin Durant when he left and became a member of the Golden State Warriors. He got trashed in the media. When you left Arsenal, people were upset that you left. What do you say to fans? Why don’t they understand it? You are a human being and you should be allowed to play where ever you want. I believe, make the money you want and go for championships. You put your time into Arsenal. You won championships with Arsenal. Isn’t it o.k. to move over and play of Chelsea?
AC: I totally agree. We train from the age of thirteen, fourteen, fifteen to be the stars that we watch on TV. To win the trophies that we’ve watched our favorite players hold up over their heads. I understand fans frustration because when you’re at a club the fans kind of think that they own you. They want to own you. You are theirs and they put a lot of love into you. I understand that. But as players we want to win. We have one life, one career and we want to fulfill it was much as we can. We want to win as many trophies as we can. That was the idea when leaving Arsenal. I won at Arsenal and I wanted to go and do something different. Maybe my time was up there. I wanted to try to get better as a player, improve as a player and I thought that maybe under Jose Mourinho I could do that. It was something different. I went on and won a lot of trophies. I understand the fans frustrations sometimes but we want to win. It’s our passion, our job. We have one career and I think sometimes we have to do what we want, not what everyone else wants.
DD: I heard you mention in another interview and I was actually surprised that your trophies and medals are in the bank.
DD: So, let’s say your son comes of age where you want to show him some stuff, but you only get one to take out of the bank. Bank says that’s it, we’re holding on to everything else fight now. Your son says, “dad, I want to see the one that means the most to you.” Or maybe you think what means the most to me. What would it be?
AC: I think I would have to say the Champions League. If you look at the players who’ve won that and the players who’ve played in the Champions League, it has been the best players in the world. I’d have to say the Champions League. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to the club, Chelsea, making history. Thinking I was coming to the age where I was never going to touch that trophy. I had actually done it. I think the Champions League is my most prized possession in terms of my medals.
DD: We’re speaking to Ashley Cole here on SportsJam, Ang Santos joining me here. The English media has been brutal at times to you. Here in the United States, not nearly that because here you can go out in L.A. and people might not even recognize you as this unbelievable soccer player. Do enjoy that your time with the L.A. Galaxy you’ve been able to go out to dinner and not be mobbed or asked really unfair questions.
AC: Yes. It’s been the last two and a half years being away from the Premier League and being away from the English media. It has been good not only for my head, but I think I’ve really enjoyed the football. If you make a mistake here it’s not dramatized as much as it would be. I’ve enjoyed my time in L.A. I can walk around with my son and my girlfriend and enjoy the days more instead of thinking well what have I done today that’s going to be on the front-page news or this bad, negative stuff that affected me a lot as I was going through my career.
Ang Santos: What were some of the either positive or negative affects depending on the way you look at it, being a part of the ‘Golden Generation’ of English football?
AC: You hear that a lot, the ‘Golden Generation.’ Yes, we had fantastic world class players and if you asked every one of them now, we all knew that we underachieved. We did nothing for our country that we did for our teams. You have Chelsea who is winning stuff, Man U winning stuff. Stevie G. (Steven Gerrard) won the Champions League. That batch of players was world class but we didn’t produce for the national team. That’s one thing that’s definitely hurt me and hurt a lot of us because we look now at this young generation and we think, can they do it? We hope they can do it. It comes with a lot of pressure as well. I don’t know why but maybe it’s the English media always wanting that win for the country like the fans. Hopefully they can do it.
AS: The United States has been taking quite a thrashing lately, their national team didn’t qualify for the World Cup. Is there any advice you would give to a player feeling down and out on that team?
AC: Just come back stronger. It’s not just the U.S. national team who didn’t make it. You look at Chile and the players they have, Holland, Italy, all didn’t make it to the World Cup where you would expect them to make it. Sweden didn’t make it. You have world class players in a lot of these countries not making it. I say to them, this wasn’t your year to qualify but you have to come back stronger now, work harder for your club teams and maybe come back together as a country. It’s more than just bashing the players. Understand that these things happen in soccer. Hopefully you get a different manger in. My friend Bruce (Arena) has left. Get ready for the flack he’s going to get and take on these young kids. You have good young players here. Hopefully some of them will go to Europe and improve as players and do something their country has not seen in a while.
AS: Have you been enjoying your time in Major League Soccer. AC: It’s been good. I can play with a free head just enjoying my last few years of my career. Hopefully next season I can try to win something. I always want to win so hopefully I can bow out by winning a trophy. Doug Doyle: When you hear about legendary players, they’re normally players that score goals, run for touchdowns, throw touchdowns. But as a left back, it seems to me as somebody on the outside, you have to be so much better than someone who would score lots of goals to gain that kind of status. When did you make that decision in your life?
AC: It wasn’t my decision. They said I wasn’t good enough as a striker so get back. When I look back, I was enjoying being a striker. You have the glory and that kind of stuff. I enjoyed defending. I enjoyed slide tackling and the hustle and bustle of playing against bigger players. When you’re small and skinny like how I was you have to prove that you can rough it out with the bigger guys. The time came when they put me back in the defense and I rolled with it. I could still attack at the time and now I look back on my career and say maybe if I was a striker I don’t make it. As a left back I’ve been up there and played against the best players in the world and been lucky enough to win a bunchy of trophies. I’m not going to hold it against the manager who put me in a defensive role. I’m going to thank him.
DD: The kids in Harlem today might not feel so bad when the coach says go back. Maybe you can talk to them about that today. It’s not so bad that you can excel at a different spot.
AC: Of course. When your young kids, nobody wants to be the goalkeeper or the center back, let alone the left back but I think for sure that they can look at me and see that the game has developed where the full back position is a main position in a lot of teams. You start the attacks from the left back and right back positions. You can score some goals as well. It’s not all bad being a left back.
DD: I like the fact that you’ve said you want to do some scouting for Chelsea. Maybe rather than go back and coach. To me that seems like you enjoy the game even more than some people might realize. If you like to go and watch younger people and look at their skills, you’re thinking about the future and not at more glory for yourself as a coach.
AC: I think I owe it to football to give back to everything it’s done for me, especially Chelsea. I would love to go back there and for the next ten years try to help them develop and produce young kids like me who grew up through the ranks and wins trophies, gets international caps and plays for their countries. That’s something I would like to do. And if it’s for Chelsea it would be even better.
DD: 107 caps. Maybe that would be the headline you’d like, but it you could have one headline in the newspaper back home that sums you up. What would it be so it really represents what’s inside that blue jacket right now. That maybe you haven’t been portrayed.
AC: I’m not too sure. I think I’ve been portrayed in a bad light at times through my own doings. I think fans of the club I played for and people around the clubs know that I was as winner, a fighter, and trying to give everything for the shirt that I was wearing. I get that when I go back to Chelsea and when I come here. The fans appreciate what I did for the club. I would say that I was a fighter, never gave up, and gave everything for the shirts I’ve worn.
Ang Santos: Should the MLS fans expect to see you in an MLS jersey next season?
AC: I hope so. I think it’s going to be done in the next two or three weeks with L.A. Now I’m enjoying my time with Chelsea helping them out here. But it should be done in the next two or three weeks.
AS: What’s your expectation?
AC: I hope to win. This season was terrible. We lost a lot of players through injury. No excuse but hopefully next season we can all stay fit and do something magical for a big club in MLS. They are all time holders of the MLS Cup. Hopefully next season we can add to that.
DD: We’re a jazz station. Any jazz in your music?
AC: No, unless you want to give me one.
DD: What do you listen to?
AC: I listen to hip-hop. But recently I’ve gone back to listening to the calm music of 112, Jagged Edge. The kind of old school R. Kelly, just to kind of change my mood. I’m not so much into the head banging music anymore. I’m getting old now. I don’t want my kid listening to the swear words as well.
DD: Family is not allowed in this conversation. You’re going to take a trip and you’ve got to bring three people with you to have a weekend of relaxation and fun. Could even be some football involved in that. Who would the three people be?
AC: I’d probably take two of my good friends. One’s name is Dwayne. One’s name is Pete. And I would take my mom. You said no family!
DD: That’s o.k. Mom’s allowed for the ride. One more then.
AC: I’d take a guy who works at L.A. Galaxy, Zach. He’s a good guy that looks out for me. He’s like the team manager.
DD: So no stars then. Just a few people who really mean something to you.
AC: Yeah, footballers go on holiday enough so I’d take my friends.
DD: Ashley Cole, thanks for joining us on SportsJam. What you’re doing today is an example of what really makes you tick inside. We appreciate you spending some time on SportsJam with us.
AC: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
Click above to hear the entire SportsJam with Doug Doyle podcast with Ashley Cole.