As Ashley Cole brings down the curtain on his illustrious playing career, we look back at some of the highlights of his eight unforgettable seasons as a Blue.
Chelsea have been blessed with an abundance of quality full-backs over the years, but few could match the level of consistency shown by one of England’s finest ever players, as he lifted trophy after trophy between 2006 and 2014 at Stamford Bridge.
He became a big hit with the Blues faithful despite spending the early years of his career with our London rivals Arsenal, where he won the Double and was a big part of their Invincibles side in the 2003/04 season.
Cole’s form, which had seen him chosen in the PFA Team of the Year three times, caught the eye of then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, and on transfer deadline day in August 2006 he joined the Blues, with William Gallas heading the other way in exchange.
Despite an injury-affected first season, he won the FA Cup as a substitute in our triumph over Manchester United in the first final held at the new Wembley Stadium, and then he found his best form the following campaign as we went for glory on three fronts.
Cole scored his first Chelsea goal in a 4-0 win over West Ham at Upton Park, but it was a frustrating season for the Blues as we missed out on silverware, which is fortunately something our No3 didn’t experience too often in his time with the club.
That was rectified the following year, as he added another FA Cup to his record-setting tally of triumphs in the famous competition, and his growing influence was reflected by his team-mates voting him Players’ Player of the Year.
He wasn’t known for his goalscoring, but the 2009/10 turned out to be the most prolific season of Cole’s career, as he notched four of his seven Premier League goals for the Blues during that campaign. He famously scored Chelsea’s Goal of the Season in a home match against Sunderland, demonstrating phenomenal technique to control John Terry’s long pass before exquisitely dinking the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side won the Premier League title that season, which was the club’s third and Cole’s first since moving across London. Our left-back scored in an 8-0 win over Wigan on the final day as the Blues broke the Premier League record for most goals scored in a season with 103.
We lifted the FA Cup a week later, beating Portsmouth 1-0 in the final, to make Chelsea the seventh English club to win the Double. Cole, of course, was imperious against Pompey and he completed the rare feat of winning the Double with two different clubs.
The 2010/11 campaign was another superb season from the left-back on a personal level as he won the Players’ Player of the Year award for a second time, as a stalwart of the defence which conceded the joint-fewest goals in the Premier League.
Cole won the last FA Cup of his career in May 2012, starting the final in which Chelsea defeated Liverpool 2-1. This was the seventh time he lifted the trophy, a record which marks him out as the most decorated player in the historic cup’s history; no other player has won more than five.
The one item missing from Cole’s and the club’s résumé was the biggest honour in European club football. That changed on a famous night in Munich, as the Blues defeated Bayern Munich on penalties to lift the Champions League trophy. Cole played a pivotal role, making crucial goal-line clearances to deny Napoli and Barcelona along the way and scoring his side’s penultimate penalty in the decisive shoot-out in the final.
Having waited years for a European trophy, the next one arrived for Cole and his team-mates only 12 months later, as Chelsea overcame Benfica to simultaneously hold the two major UEFA trophies.
That season Cole also claimed his 100th England cap, starting in a 2-1 friendly win over Brazil. He would go on to make 107 international appearances, which is the most by an English full-back. Along the way he represented his country at three World Cups and two European Championships, and he was named England Player of the Year in 2010.
The next season, however, saw Cole lose his regular starting berth to Cesar Azpilicueta and he played his final match for Chelsea in an away match against Cardiff City in May 2014. His time at the club can be described as nothing less than a major success, making 338 appearances over seven seasons and winning nine trophies to stake a legitimate claim for the tag of our greatest left-back.