Cole overwhelmed by 100 cap achievement
Ashley Cole becomes England's latest centurion at Wembley on Wednesday night still scarcely able to believe how a skinny young boy from the East End managed to travel so far.
Coach Roy Hodgson has already confirmed Cole will follow Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Sir Bobby Charlton, Billy Wright and Steven Gerrard into the history books when England face Brazil.
"I never thought a little boy from the East End would get a chance to represent my country," he said. "I am proud, privileged and overwhelmed by how many times I have done it. When I retire I will look back and think I achieved something."
And Cole owes so much to his boyhood hero David Rocastle, who sadly died from cancer in 2001, for fuelling the ambition of an Arsenal-loving schoolboy in a five-minute chat the full-back remembers to this day.
"I supported Arsenal at the time and he was someone I wanted to be like," said Cole. "After he spoke to me for those five minutes, it was all I wanted to be. Now I look back and think what a great career I have had but I will never forget speaking to him."
Cole will also never forget being told he had been selected by England for the first time, having made just 24 first-team appearances for the Gunners.
He was 20. And he was pedalling away on an exercise bike at Arsenal's London Colney training complex when Arsene Wenger walked in.
"He came towards me and said congratulations on my call-up. I was like 'what are you talking about?'," he said.
"I had played four games for the Under-21s, and I didn't expect that because I was playing reserve football and had only been on the bench a few times for the Arsenal first team. My reaction to being told I had been called-up to the senior team was one of disbelief. The first thing I did was to text my mum.
"To be put in that situation was a little bit nerve-wracking even though it was a great feeling to know that I would be rubbing shoulders with Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Steve McManaman and (Nick) Barmby. I had only seen Becks in the paper and on TV but I knew it was a chance for me to show people what I was about and what I was made of."