Sunday 25 February 2018

Ashley Cole dodges the flak and flies out to Spanish haven

Jason Burt

Ashley Cole flew to Spain for warm-weather recuperation on his broken ankle.

Chelsea, meanwhile, attempted to take the temperature out of the controversy over his behaviour and the claim that he misled a senior club official over an alleged extramarital affair.

There is no disciplinary action under way against Cole, although the club have reserved the right to take action in the future. Any action will not, the club insist, be made public, which would seem to end claims that Cole would be either forced out of the club or be suspended.

The likelihood remains that action will be taken, when Cole has recovered from his injury, but also that it will be far less dramatic than has been suggested. At the same time the player is understood neither to be seeking a move away from Chelsea, nor to be in conflict with the club — but he is annoyed at how the episode has been portrayed.

Cole will remain in Spain for some time, it is understood, and will not be hauled before the club’s directors this week. Indeed the prospect of that happening at all was put in severe doubt on Tuesday by the club, who emphasised that their aim was to get the 29 year-old fit to play again before the end of the season.

As Chelsea arrived in Milan ahead of Wednesday night’s Champions League tie against Inter, Cole and Michael Essien — another long-term injury victim who is recovering from knee ligament damage — flew from the private airfield at Farnborough, Kent, to the south of Spain. Chelsea said it was standard procedure with players suffering from bad injuries, partly as a psychological lift, with manager Carlo Ancelotti stressing that he had not spoken to Cole because “he is recovering from his ankle”.

Interestingly, Inter coach — and former Chelsea manager of course — Jose Mourinho revealed that he had, in the last few days, counselled the player whom he bought from Arsenal in controversial circumstances.

This came on the day that Cole’s wife, Cheryl, arrived back in England from the United States, where she has been working, to announce that the couple had separated.

In a surprise measure, Chelsea decided to release a statement about the separation. “This is a private matter for Ashley Cole but the club continues to offer Ashley and his family their full support in dealing with this issue,” the club said. That would appear to indicate that Chelsea realise the strain the player is under and that it may be best to back off and try to calm down the situation.

Equally, Cole is a valuable asset and Chelsea do not want him agitating for a move if he feels he has been unfairly treated. Sources close to the England international played down the prospect of that happening and also insisted that, as far as they were aware, Chelsea did not intend to take any action against Cole.

He stands accused of misleading the club’s director of communications after Cole was alleged to have had an affair during Chelsea’s pre-season tour to the United States last summer. He is alleged to have smuggled a woman into the team hotel.

Chelsea have drawn a distinction between Cole’s alleged behaviour and that of John Terry — who was also accused of having an extramarital affair — because Cole was on club duty. Ron Gourlay, Chelsea’s chief executive, delivered a message to the players — and all the staff — last week warning them about their conduct and underlining the need to protect the club’s image. This was done in conjunction with Ancelotti.

Indeed, Chelsea feel that continued speculation and discussion of Cole’s behaviour is tarnishing that image, which is why they want to attempt to draw a line under the episode.

Ancelotti spoke about the allegations surrounding some of his players and said that “what happens outside our dressing room will not affect us”.

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