A full transcript of Ashley Cole's interview ahead of 100th appearance against Brazil
Could you pick a better team to make such a historic appearance against?
I don't think so. You just have to look at the players they have called up to their squad; Ronaldinho and Neymar, so many great players. To play at home against Brazil....they are one of the best teams you can play against so to win my 100th cap against them is going to be amazing.
Only six players have reached 100 caps. How does it feel to get there?
It makes you proud. When I was a young kid, I never expected to play for Arsenal or England. To play for my country for the 100th time is amazing. When I retire, I will look back and think I achieved something not many other people have done. With people like Becks, Shilton and Steven Gerrard, it is a great achievement for me.
Who were the people who inspired you as a seven, eight, nine-year-old to get to where you are now?
David Rocastle. I supported Arsenal at the time. He was someone I wanted to be like and play like. I got the lucky chance to meet him. After speaking to me for five minutes, after that he was all I wanted to be. Now I look back and think what a great career I have had. I will never forget speaking to him.
You progressed very quickly into the England Senior squad. How did it feel when you received that first call-up?
I played four games for the Under-21s. At the time, I didn't expect to play for the Under-21s. I was playing reserve football and I was on the bench a few times for the Arsenal first team but when you get the call-up to the Senior team, it was a feeling of disbelief. I remember being on a bike in the gym at Arsenal and Arsene Wenger saying congratulations on my call-up. I was like 'what are you talking about?'. He told me I was in the full squad. I didn't expect it, but I knew it was a chance for me to show people what I was about and what I was made of. It was a big step-up for me. I had not played too many games for the Arsenal first team and not too many for the Under-21s. To be put in that situation was a little bit nerve-racking. There were people there like Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Steve McManaman, Barmby, Becks. It was a great feeling to know that I would be rubbing shoulders with those guys.
Did you carry on with the work on the exercise bike?
I didn't believe him. I didn't know. He told me they got the letter faxed through and told me I was in. The first thing I did was text my mum to say I was in the squad.
How long was it from that point to feeling you belonged? You were at a World Cup 15 months later.
Even to this day I see the guys and - I am not saying I get starstruck, but you get new young players coming into the team and you admire what they do every week for their Premier League teams. When you see them, I can be a little bit shy around them but when I first got in the squad and there were people like Becks around, I had only seen him in the paper and on TV. To be playing with these guys was a little bit nerve racking. But it was something I always wanted to achieve. I love playing football, and definitely for England.
Was there a feeling after the 2002 World Cup that despite the disappointment of losing you would win something because this was 'the golden generation'?
The Brazil game was disappointing for us. It was a great goal from Ronaldinho but we had chances in that game and I felt we could have won. But being so young, I was just happy to be there, at the World Cup on such a big stage. I just wanted more of it. I enjoyed it so much, being around the players and the staff. The atmosphere was something I wanted to carry on. Of course, you want to win something for your country. So far, it hasn't happened for us.
Has that feeling of excitement turned to frustration? It always seems to be the same ending at every tournament.
When we had Wayne Rooney coming through we thought “He is on fire. This is our chance to get some goals and win something.” We just haven't had that luck. We keep seeming to go out on penalties. Maybe if we beat one of those teams it would give us the confidence or we might have a little bit of luck in the next game to go through. Unfortunately we have not progressed as much as players as we think we deserve to. But the young players we have got now hopefully can do it in Brazil.
Were you particularly aggrieved at Euro 2012 because Roy Hodgson said it might have been destiny?
When it goes to penalites, I am not saying it is luck because the goalkeeper is making good saves but you think 'if we win this, we have got a chance in the next round'. Three times now, we have been knocked out on penalties. I have scored one and missed one. As players you are so disappointed. We had worked so hard, trained so hard, stuck together and then to lose on penalties, I definitely felt I had let the team down at that time.
Which game stands out of the previous 99?
Certain games do, like when we beat Argentina 1-0 in Japan. In previous games, there was something about them not swapping shirts, which added to the build-up. To beat them 1-0 and for Becks to get the penalty after getting sent off in ’98 was a great moment. That was one of my favourites, along with beating Germany 5-1 in Germany. Going 1-0 down, to come back and do what we did to them in their back-yard was an amazing feeling.
You said out of all the historical figures, you would most like to go to dinner with Winston Churchill - Are you a patriot? Does England matter?
I am proud to play for England. From being a little boy from the east end, you would never think you would get a chance to represent your country. I am proud, privileged and overwhelmed by how many times I have played for England. I hope it doesn't stop here.
You were booed against Kazhakstan, fans didn't appreciate you. Twelve months later, you were voted fans' player of year - do you need character to overcome the low points?
Yes. In football you can't always have it your own way. You can't always have the good times. You are going to have bad spells and periods when you are not playing well. It is something I have to deal with. I have learned to deal with it.
Are you bothered by it? Team-mates respect you but from others it seems you don't get the recognition and praise you deserve.
Yeah. You are probably right. I don't want to sit here and keep going on about wanting to be loved. I am here to play football. That is all I want to do. I have been lucky to win trophies. That is my aim. Of course I want to do it in an England shirt.
You’re trying to reach a sixth tournament and fourth World Cup. Do personal milestones matter?
I never think I want to go to another World Cup just to be in the record books again and play in six tournaments or four World Cups. If I am lucky enough to go, I want to go there to fight for my place and win something in an England shirt. Euro 2012 could have been my last tournament. It wasn't, but the next World Cup could be my last so you want to do well. I don't look too far ahead to be honest.
Leighton Baines’ challenge is gathering momentum. Does the competition motivate you?
I think so. It is not just about me or Leighton. It is about the team. If he is playing well and plays in front of me, it is going to benefit the team. It is not as if I am going to start moaning or saying I should be playing. We are a big squad. We are all great players. If there comes a time - and there will - when I am not number one, or first-choice left-back, it won't be a problem. I am here to help the team. It is not about me.
Would you accept just being part of a squad and someone else being picked ahead of you?
I am not going to quit just because someone is playing better than me or deserves to play. I enjoy coming here. I enjoy being with the Manager and the players. I enjoy the atmoshere in the squad. There will be a time when I am not going to be first choice. Leighton is playing very well. He is having a great season. It is stiff competition but I have had it so many times, with Bridge and so many other players who were going to take my place. I just get my head down and keep fighting for my place.
You have never scored...
Oh man. I am not a goalscorer. It is not my job.
You must get some stick in the dressing room?
Yes. Everyone always tells me I have never scored. I don't think I have had a shot. Of course, it is nice to score and I would like to score a goal playing for England. But it is not something that is in the back of my mind, that I have to keep going until I score a goal. It is not my job. That is what I say.
With no medal with England, if you don't get one, would there be a sadness or a feeling you did okay proving you were one of the best teams?
Gary Neville said he thought it was a waste of time playing for England because he has not won anything. I kind of understand where he is coming from. But the players we have here, a lot of them have won things and have the attitude that we need to win. Unfortunately we haven't won anything since 1966. All the players would love to do that. Even to get to a final and share it with the country would be a great achievement. Now, with the young players coming through, I think we have a great chance.
Will your England career be a waste of time if you didn't win anything?
I would be a little bit sad not winning anything for my country but there are some great teams out there who have never been good enough to get to a final, let alone win one.