Today it is exactly a decade since Chelsea completed a famous Double triumph. One of the key players that season was Ashley Cole. Here we talk to him about being part of a winning team and the long-standing record he captured from a star of recent Netflix drama…
Immediately after the final whistle of the 2010 FA Cup final, Chelsea’s players gathered in a huddle in the middle of the Wembley pitch, arms around each other’s shoulders in a team embrace. With a hard-fought 1-0 win over Portsmouth, Carlo Ancelotti’s side had just secured the first League and FA Cup Double in Chelsea history, making us only the seventh club to have achieved that rare distinction since league football began back in 1888.
A few minutes later, as the champagne-soaked players emerged from the official photographs, medals round their necks, and headed over to share the moment with the supporters, there was one man among them who had made his own individual slice of history too. That sunny afternoon at Wembley, Ashley Cole (pictured top centre) lifted the FA Cup for the sixth time, making him the most successful player in the history of the oldest competition in football, and breaking a record that had stood for 132 years.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of that historic victory, and Cole – who later added a seventh FA Cup winners’ medal to his collection – has been retired for almost a year. With his playing days behind him, he now feels better placed to appreciate his personal accomplishments.
‘I’m very proud of it,’ he tells us. ‘Being an Englishman, I have memories of being a young kid, watching the FA Cup final. Then, to actually get to play in eight finals myself, and win seven of them, is unbelievable.
‘I remember Ray Parlour saying to me after I won it for a third time, “You’ll break the record,” but you don’t fully understand about records at that age, and how much it matters. I’m very proud of it now – for sure, it’ll be broken by someone, but hopefully it can stand for another hundred years before that happens!’- The below video was made when Ashley Cole left Chelsea in 2014
The record had previously been held by three men – Charles Wollaston, Arthur Kinnaird and Jimmy Forrest – all of whom had played in the 19th Century, when football was an entirely different phenomenon. Wollaston and Kinnaird would have been offended even to hear their playing days described as a ‘career’, having competed as amateur sportsmen, as was the norm in the game’s early years.
The game of association football was less than 20 years old when Wollaston – who played up front for the inaugural FA Cup winners, Wanderers – became the first man to lift the trophy for a fifth time in 1878. At that time, there was no such thing as league football, the penalty area was yet to be invented and the sport was about to enter into a major debate that would define its very future – the question of whether or not to allow professionals to compete.The next man to make it to five winners’ medals was Lord Kinnaird, the son of a Member of Parliament and one of the first stars of the game, in an era when most of the best players were former public schoolboys. Kinnaird was a Londoner, born just down from the road from Stamford Bridge, in Kensington, and like Cole he won the FA Cup with two different clubs from the capital – three times with Wanderers and twice with Old Etonians. His was an action-packed life – he lost a further four cup finals over the course of his playing days, and was also president of the FA and a director at Barclays Bank. No wonder his story was dramatised as part of the recent Netflix drama, The English Game.
Forrest, a Blackburn Rovers half-back, became the first professional footballer to equal their record when he collected his fifth FA Cup winners’ medal in 1891, but then an entire century came and went before another player joined their ranks. To be precise, it was 118 years before Cole became the next man to make it to five winners’ medals in 2009, when we came from behind to defeat Everton 2-1 at Wembley. A year later, he finally surpassed the target first set by Wollaston a little over 13 decades previously. Thirteen decades. There can be few sporting records that have fallen after standing for so long, and that’s what make Cole’s achievement so extraordinary.
‘I think I’ve been lucky to play in two good teams who were hungry to win that trophy,’ he reflects. ‘At Chelsea, we had an English mentality and core that meant we always wanted to do well in the FA Cup, always wanted to take it seriously, and it was a proud moment for a lot of us to keep going back there and keep lifting the trophy. It wasn’t about the record, it was about winning, and the record just came with it. For me, it was about playing in the final of one of the oldest competitions in football, so to know my name is at the top of that list is brilliant. Yeah, it’s crazy.’
Read: Petr Cech's thoughts on winning the Double
Cole, who is now coaching in the Chelsea Academy, also has high hopes for the current crop of young Blues who have broken into the first team in numbers this season. He currently sees the pieces of the puzzle coming together for another successful generation at Stamford Bridge.
‘If Chelsea add a few more top players, then I definitely feel they will be ready not just to challenge for FA Cups, but the Premier League as well,’ he says. ‘There are players there now who are young enough that, if they can sustain the quality and the level they’re showing, then they are at a good club to go and win trophies and have the opportunities to keep going back to Wembley.’
Cole certainly knows better than most what a winning environment looks like. Our 2009/10 success also saw him enter the history books for a second reason, as he and Nicolas Anelka became the first players ever to win an English League and Cup Double with two different clubs, having both done so previously with Arsenal. Yet, he is not one to crow about his accomplishments and when he is reminded of that particular record, he seems genuinely surprised.
‘Yeah? Interesting! Again, you don’t think about things like that at the time, because players don’t play for history when they’re in that moment, they play to win. I actually forgot about that one. It’s another good one to have, isn’t it?!’
By following that 2010 success up with one more Wembley triumph in 2012, Cole is now two winners’ medals clear at the top of the all-time FA Cup individual honours table, having won three with Arsenal (2002, 2003, 2005) and four with Chelsea (2007, 2009, 2010, 2012). The question is: will it take another 132 years for someone to overtake him?
‘Records are there, always, to be broken,’ he says. ‘There are probably a lot of records out there that people thought could never be done, and they’re getting done. So it’s now there to be broken again – whether or not that will be by someone in this era, I don’t know. It’d have to be someone who stays consistently at the top, probably with two winning clubs. But now we’re talking about it and I think about it more...seven is a lot!’
By Dominic Bliss
The full 2010 FA Cup final against Portsmouth will be available to watch on The 5th Stand from 3pm on Saturday