So on the 230th last day of my 20s, I saw a patient who talked incessantly, incoherently, repetitively about the loss of his front bridge and the gaping hole in the front of his mouth. And I sat with him and listened to him ramble for half an hour. I went through all the treatment options several times until he understood and decided what was best for him. And when he left, I felt so sorry for him.
"Contrary to what many people think, I found Ashley very likeable and willing to learn when he came on the scene at Arsenal. He had a great deal of respect for senior players because he was an Arsenal fan living the dream just training with us."
- Martin Keown, on his days playing alongside Ashley Cole
Keown’s article about Ashley Cole begins the same way most stories about serial killers or paedophiles tend to begin - Ashley Cole was a lovely boy, and no one would’ve suspected that when he grew up he would’ve: killed people; raped kids; or played for Chelsea.
I suppose everyone starts off as lovely kids. It’s what happens to us in life, and the choices we make, that determines whether we turn out good or bad, likeable or horrible, an Arsenal legend or a conniving Chelski mercenary. Some people are lucky enough to stumble across the right choices, some are wise enough to figure it out from the start. Most of us get it half right and half wrong, and we end up being a mixture of good and bad.
And then, some people end up like Ashley Cole.
There’s a lot to like about Ashley Cole’s game. He’s determined and hardworking. He’s talented, and he makes the most of his talent. He’s one of those rare full-backs who can defend. And he’s a big game player. As Keown says:
He was impressive in training but we only really stood up and took notice - including Arsene Wenger - when he made his first-team debut. There are some players who look brilliant in training and don't really perform in a game and then there are others who don't seem special in training and save their best performances for when it matters. Ashley was the latter.
As late as 2005, Ashley Cole had it all - a star player for the club he supported, a future captain, a member of the greatest team in the world - and then he threw it away by acting like a dick. He gave up certain legendary status at his boyhood club, just to earn a little bit more at another club. In the history of dumb, unlucky choices, this has to rank pretty high.
Actually, considering he managed to date, marry, then divorce Cheryl Tweedy, I’d imagine Ashley Cole features quite frequently in the complete list of dumb, unlucky life choices.
I wonder if he ever regrets it. I kind of doubt it. A footballer’s life is probably lived in the moment. And at the moment, Ashley Cole is a double-winner with Chelsea, a Champions League finalist from 2008.... and with a wage that probably doubles what he’d be earning at the Arsenal. So the adrenaline’s pumping, and the trophies are gleaming, and there’s not a thought in the world for the price he paid in order to join a club like Chelsea.
I wonder if he’ll think about it when he retires, and the whirl of footballing celebrity grinds to a halt. Maybe he’ll have two cabinets in his study, one with his Arsenal stuff and the other with his Chelsea things. Maybe he’ll take a look at the two combined, and wonder whether winning an identical set of blue-themed medals was worth the dissonance in his career.
Then again, maybe not. He is the kind of guy who gets so upset over a £55,000 a week contract, after all. A guy like that probably isn’t the right guy to think deep introspective thoughts about the nature of loyalty, fidelity and a sense of belonging. Actually, I think it’s more likely that Ashley Cole will spend his retirement hanging out in Miami, snorting cocaine off a hooker’s backside with rolled-up $100 bills.
But that’s just me being presumptuous.
I was just like him two years ago.
It was about another girl then, and another situation. And I liked this girl so much that the gears in my head slipped their chains and I went spinning off into madness. And I know exactly what it feels like to have thoughts spin through your head so fast that you can’t get traction, and you’re propelled helplessly along until your neurones get fried from overwork. It’s not pleasant, and when I was finally over her, I made a pact with myself to never get worked up like that ever again.
But now I’m thinking about the GOMD, and wondering how it’s all going to pan out. She knows I like her, and she knows I like her a bit too much. She likes me, or at least she doesn’t hate me, but still, she doesn’t like me enough to ever think about it. And I’m wondering if making acronyms for unattainable girls is really the best use of the last 230 days of my 20s. Maybe I should just move on. After all, the difference between humans and mammals should be that we learn from our mistakes.