Guilty: Of going for tea with Chelski
Guilty: Of doing it four days before a crunch tie against one of our big rivals
Guilty: Of trampling all over the rules
Guilty: Of burying his head in the sand and feeling wronged
And that’s just Ashley Cole.
So the whole sorry mess has come to a head, and as we were warned, our left-back does not come out of it smelling of roses. He might not have set the meeting up, and he might have been “manipulated”, but he’s a grown man and he knew full well what he was doing. For that he has been punished.
As Das Blogger points out, he seems hell-bent on blaming everyone bar himself for this, and is even threatening to blow the cosy world footballers enjoy apart with his “restraint of trade” defence. If he does that, he runs the risk not only of helping to change the face of football forever, but also of going from being a well-regarded footballer to becoming a hate figure in one fell swoop. I hope he is aware of that.
Of course, in keeping with a situation in which everyone is desperately trying to cover their own arses, all parties feel wronged here. Cole for his £100,000 fine and for not being allowed to break the rules, and Chelski for feeling they have been disproportionately blamed, despite not making the first approach. The Chelski chairman also seemed to blame Arsenal for having an “agenda”, whatever that may mean. The Standard seems to have an idea here. Perhaps he was angry that the club had the temerity to launch an official complaint. Nor does he seem to accept that attending a meeting with someone else’s player, even if they did not set it up, is such a bad thing. It beggars belief.
Christ only knows what the truth is here, but if you think it’s messy now, then think again. According to the Grauniad this morning, it could open the floodgates to litigation between Arsenal and the Russians. Bring it on, I say. Personally, if Arsenal did have “an agenda”, I want to know about it. I’m not foolish enough to believe the Arsenal board is whiter than white, but if the Chelski chairman believes there’s an agenda, then let him prove it.
What I find particularly galling is that the two men who were undoubtedly key in the whole affair – the agents – have got away with it. There’s talk of the FA looking into Barnett’s actions, and the FA into Zahavi’s, and that’s got to happen, somehow. If Cole and Chelski are guilty, then the middlemen are doubly so, and they need to be brought to book.
Given all that has gone on – and the appeal that is to come – I just don’t see how Ashley Cole can now remain an Arsenal player, short of a contrite u-turn that would not be in keeping with him, or his agent.
He may well wish to run his two years down and leave on a Bosman. Who knows, perhaps by then he’ll be leaving on a Cole.
But can you see him signing a new deal, saying ‘Sorry, I was wrong’, and ditching his agent?
It’s what Arsenal want, but I won’t hold my breath.