Football News

‘Chain-smoking didn’t stop Ashley Cole becoming the best of England’s Golden Generation’ – Emile Heskey

By Steve Jennings

Published: 17:56, 11 September 2019

Emile Heskey has named Ashley Cole as the “finest” player of the ‘Golden Generation’ that played for England in the previous decade.

A hugely talented group including the likes David Beckham, Sol Campbell, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney emerged as England regulars in the early 2000s.

Was Ashley Cole the best of England’s ‘Golden Generation’? Five things to know…

  • Cole was considered one of the world’s best defenders during his playing days.
  • His quality helped him become England’s sixth-most capped player of all time (107).
  • The former Chelsea star was part of the Three Lions’ ‘Golden Generation’.
  • The likes of Beckham, Scholes and Gerrard stole most of the headlines.
  • But Heskey thinks Cole was the “finest” of the lot, despite being a chain-smoker.

Heskey, who has written a new book about his career, often partnered Michael Owen up front for the Three Lions and had a close-up view of the so-called ‘Golden Generation’.

And in his book, the former Liverpool striker claims Cole was the best of the lot, partly because he could keep Cristiano Ronaldo “in his pocket” despite being a “chain-smoker”.

“I don’t know what it feels like to smoke but I couldn’t imagine that it helps you a lot,” Heskey told the Guardian in an interview about the book.

Despite Cole’s bad habit doing little to hinder him in Heskey’s eyes, it did eventually play a big part in his demise at Chelsea, leaving him at odds with former boss Jose Mourinho before the defender moved on to Roma in 2014.

Cole made 107 appearances for England before ending his international career shortly before his move to Roma. He retired from football altogether following spells with LA Galaxy and Derby County.

The 38-year-old won three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and the Champions League during a highly successful career.

Meanwhile, Heskey retired from England duty in 2010 and ended his club career in 2016.

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Owen got me back in the national team – Heskey

Heskey and Owen were strike partners for one of England’s most famous results this century, a 5-1 thrashing of Germany in Munich during qualification for the 2002 World Cup.

Owen bagged a hat-trick and Heskey added the fifth goal of the night, but the latter soon found himself out of the England picture for three years between 2004-2007.

That was until – according to Heskey – Owen convinced new head coach Steve McClaren to reunite the duo on the international stage.

Heskey added: “He (McClaren) said, ‘I’ve spoken to Michael [Owen] about you.’ It’s like – thank you but why would you?

“I’d played how many seasons in the Premier League – it’s not like you don’t know me. I probably have to thank Michael for getting me back into the national team.”