As the World Cup continues, so does our daily look back at ex-Eagles who represented their countries during their careers. Gareth Southgate’s England are back in action this afternoon against Panama, so we reflect on the Three Lions career of former Palace loanee Ashley Cole.
Despite making his professional debut in a League Cup tie against Middlesbrough in November 1999, it was three months later that Cole’s career truly began when he enjoyed a 14-game stint at Selhurst Park, helping the Eagles to avoid relegation to the third tier.
It was a brief taste of life away from the glitz and glamour of World Cups, UEFA Champions League finals and Premier League glory that England’s 107-time capped defender would enjoy for the rest of his career, and below are arguably his five finest moments wearing the Three Lions.
28th March 2001: Albania 1-3 England, World Cup qualifier
12 months earlier, Cole had lined up in defence next to Dean Austin, Fan Zhiyi and Andy Linighan as the Eagles lost at home to Charlton Athletic. Now he was playing alongside Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell after new boss Sven Goran Eriksson fast-tracked him into the England set-up, and after edging another former Palace left-back in Chris Powell out of the team for this comfortable win in Tirana, he would make the position his own for the next 12 years.
1st September 2001: Germany 1-5 England, World Cup qualifier
In just his fifth cap, the 20-year-old Cole would star alongside the rest of the England side as they produced their greatest result of the 21st century in Berlin to edge closer to World Cup qualification. Michael Owen would grab all the headlines with his hat-trick, but Cole showed a maturity beyond his years to provide the platform for England’s attacking players to enjoy a field day.
7th June 2002: Argentina 0-1 England, World Cup group stage
Cole started all 14 World Cup games England played in 2002, 2006 and 2010, but it was his second game at the tournament that gave him his finest memories from his international career. “I've always tried to give my heart for England, and the Argentina game was out and out my favourite” he said recently. “Back in 2002 I felt we had the squad to win it. You need a bit of luck and we probably haven’t had our fair share of that.”
24th June 2004: Portugal 2-2 England, Euro 2004 quarter-final
Despite England exiting 6-5 on penalties, Cole did everything in his power to prevent that from happening. He put in an excellent display to thwart the emerging Cristiano Ronaldo, and even scored a penalty in the shootout, but to no avail. However, his displays during the competition saw him named in the Team of the Tournament, helping stake his claim of being the best left-back in the world at the time.
6th February 2013: England 2-1 Brazil, Friendly
Cole was handed the captain’s armband by Roy Hodgson on the occasion of his 100th cap, which came in the same game as Ronaldinho’s. “I probably didn’t play as well as I have for England,” he admitted afterwards, “It’s probably the first time I’ve been that nervous in any game, but I had a lot of fun.”
Hodgson was more diplomatic, adding: "I have found him to be an excellent professional and a very, very enthusiastic and important member of the group. 100 caps is an achievement we shouldn't be underestimating."