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Ashley Cole retires from England, so it is now ok to start acknowledging just how great a player he was

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Mike Hewitt

I've never seen a single episode of the HBO show Veep, though it is something that people tell me that I would enjoy.  People often tell me things that they think I would enjoy.  Do I have a face for such things?  Back to remedial evil stare lessons again then...

The problem is that they don't just tell me that they think that I would enjoy something, they expect me to follow-up on that recommendation.  In this case, it would mean watching the show.  Which I might enjoy, in fairness.  Elaine did have her funny moments in Seinfeld.  Though I'd also enjoy sipping a bottomless keg of my favorite adult beverage while mermaids gave me a pedicure on a secluded Maui beach, and that's not likely to happen either.

But, as luck would have it, I happened to accidentally catch a few seconds of this show tonight, and it just so happened that they were briefing Elaine on a shooting that happened on the other side of town.  One of the victims was a journalist whom Elaine hated, apparently.  So she goes on to describe the journalist in some pretty nasty terms, but then stops herself and says, in all sincerity, "that's sad news" because wow that's actually sad news even in the world of fictional, satirical television.  And then they go on to talk about and recognize the journalist's Pulitzer prize and various other accomplishments.

I feel like Ashley Cole's international retirement is getting a similar treatment.  After a decade of negative headlines, with some even questioning whether it was proper to let him captain the England side on the occasion of his century of caps, suddenly now they're realizing just what they had all these years.  And that's before the inevitable soul-searching post Brazil!

Here's the Telegraph's Henry Winter, to start us off:

Ashley Cole was England's most consistent player over the past decade. The 33-year-old left-back, who announced his international retirement last night after being overlooked for Roy Hodgson's World Cup 23, was one of the few England players who took his strong club form on to the international stage. Cole's tournament duels with Cristiano Ronaldo were the stuff of legend.

If Hodgson's decision to omit Cole was understandable, and the claims of the precocious Luke Shaw as Leighton Baines's understudy undeniable, then the Chelsea man's contribution to England's efforts since his debut in Tirana in 2001 was immense.

Cole played 8,637 minutes for England, captained the side once, and will be remembered as a left-back of craft and stamina who always gave everything. He played in three World Cups, and two European Championships.

Many more will follow, I'm sure.  As they should.  Regardless of who all get picked for Brazil at left back, they'll have some large boots to fill as England attempt another uninspiring run to the quarterfinals.

Ashley Cole was not only the greatest left back of his generation, but he was his country's greatest left back, period.  Possibly any other country's as well.  England were lucky to have him - his 107 caps put him fifth all-time behind Shilton (125), Beckham (115), Gerrard (109, and counting), and Moore (108) - as were we, should Sunday's match at Cardiff City truly prove his final one in Chelsea colors as well.

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