England Arsenal and Chelsea legend Ashley Cole admits he took his England career for granted and is sharing his experience with England U21 kids, while plotting his own coaching career
The 107-cap left back legend is currently England U21 coach, and works with Chelsea U18s.
While Golden Generation colleagues Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney already have managerial experience, Cole is “getting ready” for a chance of his own.
Cole discussed his coaching ambitions at length on Monday, and admits some black players feel there isn’t a pathway to the top.
The 40-year-old caught the coaching bug while ending his playing career at LA Galaxy. Since then he’s done his badges, including webinars with England boss Gareth Southgate.
Cole said: “It’s something I definitely want to get into. Hopefully in a few years I can go into a managerial role.
“I would love to take bits from all my managers. If I could take all those three together and squash them into one hopefully that will be me! A tough task.
“Carlo Ancelotti was key at man-managing, and understanding the person and trying to get the best out of the person. He set up sessions so that the minute you got into the training ground you wanted to get out and be on that pitch.
“He made you feel very safe and was very approachable. That really brought out the best in me.
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“In terms of the tactical aspect, I think Jose Mourinho. It was his detail, the due diligence he would do. Going up against bigger opponents he would write down their height, their weight, strong foot, weak foot, the way you want to show them. Amazing game plans.
“I would take Arsene Wenger and at times he would let the game be the teacher. I was a young raw 19 year old but he let me play. I made a lot of mistakes in my early career, and he never took me out of the team. He trusted the process I was going to be a top player. I learned a lot from my mistakes in the game.”
Asked why top black players are not getting a fast track to jobs, Cole said: “A lot of players mention it and feel there is not a pathway for them.
“I do agree at times: Is there enough opportunity for black coaches or black managers? We have to make sure we are ready to deliver. Ultimately we will be questioned on what we do. I will try to be the best I can. I have a lot of learning to do. The timing has to be right and I feel I am ready to grasp that opportunity.
“I am here with the U21s, a great opportunity for me. Hopefully down the line there will be another opportunity for me to coach at a first team level, or of course manage at a higher level.”
Cole has shown his personal and coaching skills with the U21 players, taking time for individual chats, passing on advice and also “picking the brains of these elite young players” for his own learning.
He added: “I really think it’s very important that you get to understand the individual, what makes him tick, what makes him the best he can be.
“In my day, it was more about what you did on the pitch. The mental health side of a player was disregarded a bit.
“Going back to my situation, I was probably left in the lurch at times and didn’t feel comfortable speaking about my personal issues.
“I feel these players are really open and engaging with that. I think it’s a good thing that the players have come out of their shell and are willing to talk and listen.”
One lesson Cole wants to impart is the pride in being a Three Lions player, after admitting he didn’t appreciate his own international career.
He admits: “I probably took it for granted in terms of my first cap, and didn’t really appreciate the 107 caps because I saw it as something you had to do.
“Now I sit on the other side of that and emphasise the importance of wearing this T-shirt with the three lions. It means a lot, you are living a lot of young kids’ dreams.
I didn’t really think about the next chapter after playing. Everybody speaks about having that year off to relax and sit on the beach.
“I actually got bored after two weeks and missed being on the grass. It was really important for me to get back as soon as possible to try and give back. I was playing 16-17 years at the top and it’s my duty to give back to the younger generation.
In Los Angeles, as club skipper, he was “setting up sessions. The one-on-one defending, the unit work – how to defend different blocks, a high press. The manager gave me a lot of license, he wanted to see my ideas and philosophy.
“I was looking to retire and coach there but had the chance to come back to England. I wanted to make sure I learned my trade at Chelsea. I thought let’s take this seriously and really get my teeth into it.
“I’ve sat with Chelsea legends and got to grips with what it takes to be a top coach or manager. It gave me that real edge and push to go on and try to better myself and that is why I’ve taken this chance to go up a level and work with elite players.”