Ashley Cole made a return to English football earlier today when he joined Championship side Derby County, who are managed by his former Chelsea team-mate Frank Lampard.
Cole departed Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2014 following a trophy-laden eight-year spell in SW6 where he became a Premier League and Champions League-winner.
After a short spell at Roma in Serie A, Cole made the switch to the MLS in January 2016 and joined LA Galaxy, where he played for just under three years.
Now 38, Cole said Lampard’s presence at Pride Park made the decision to return to these shores an easy one.
‘I had a conversation with Frank a month, maybe two months ago,’ Cole told Derby’s website.
‘It was just general chit-chat about how well the team was playing and he asked would I be interested in coming here because there was a young player who wanted to go back on loan - so for me it was a no-brainer.
‘I’ve kept in touch with him and followed Derby since he got the job. I respect him so much from when I played with him and because of what he’s done here in a little space of time. He’s been fantastic but he’s my boss now, it’s not as though I’ve moved to take shortcuts or I expect anything more because he’s my friend, no.’
Lampard explained why he was so pleased to acquire the services of Cole, who has represented England 107 times.
‘He's a fantastic player, a quality left-back, and he also brings great experience to the dressing room,’ he said.
‘I know him very well from our time together at Chelsea, and with England, and I also know what he can bring to the group and the influence he will have.
‘Ashley is in good shape, which doesn't surprise me because he's an excellent professional, and he will compete for a place in the side like every other player here.
‘I've made my feelings known over the last couple of days just how highly I think of Ashley and I have no doubt whatsoever he will be a positive addition to our squad.’
Cole moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the summer of 2006 and went on to make 338 appearances for the Blues, establishing himself as a pivotal member of the side during the most successful period in the club’s history,
As well as becoming a huge favourite with supporters, Cole was well respected by his team-mates and deservedly picked up the club’s Players’ Player of the Year award at the end of the 2008/09 campaign.
Consistent and reliable, Cole combined defensive solidity with a dangerous attacking instinct and he helped us win eight major trophies, both domestically and abroad, during his time as a Chelsea player.
His record for winning seven FA Cups, four of which came at Chelsea, still stands.
Cole featured regularly in 2009/10 as we secured a Premier League and FA Cup Double for the first time in our history, the defender capping our title-clinching victory over Wigan with a superb left-footed half-volley.
On our way to winning the Champions League in 2012, he was outstanding in both legs of our semi-final win over Barcelona, making a goal-line clearance, as well as a hosts of important blocks, at the Bridge, before leading by example in the Camp Nou as the 10-man Blues fought back from 2-0 down to earn a memorable draw and progress to the final, when he was once again superb and scored in the triumphant shoot-out.
He played his final game for the club on the final day of the 2013/14 season, away at Cardiff, wearing the captain’s armband before being given a wonderful ovation by the travelling fans at the end of the game as they acknowledged his wonderful Chelsea career.