Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Booing Ashley Cole is the fans verdict on celebrity

Spontaneous boos greeted Ashley Cole's every touch of the ball in the immediate aftermath of that chronic pass that gifted Kazakhstan their goal at Wembley.

But it wasn't fan reaction to poor football or even a bad show by the Chelsea left-back.

It was their instant verdict on Cole's controversial celebrity status.

Cole's odious "My Side" biography, the greed and disloyalty of his transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea and the soap opera of his relationship with WAG Cheryl played out daily through the tabloids, gets on supporters' wicks.

If Wes Brown or Matthew Upson had been responsible for the same pass, they certainly wouldn't have been booed with such conviction.

Cole's doing his best these days to keep his gob shut, to avoid searching for the paps with his celebrity wife: to quote the phrase so readily used about David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo before him, "he's playing himself out of trouble".

Fans don't mind a footballer's millionaire lifestyle, as long as he gives his all and demonstrates his commitment by consistency and good performances. Becks remains England's most popular player because he remembers just that. He learned the hard way with that sending off against Argentina a decade ago.

Cole's slowly recapturing the form that catapulted him to stardom at Arsenal. He's turning in his best performances since joining Chelsea. That's probably why another branch of England fans started clapping his every touch to compete with the boos.

But as those first fans at Wembley showed - and they're entitled to their opinion - he's still got work ahead of him to repair his image - as a man and as a footballer.

Listen to Rio's verdict on England's WAG circus under Sven!