Chelsea's Ashley Cole says 'judge me by my football'

By Leon MannBBC Sport in New York

Chelsea and England defender Ashley Cole says people should judge him on his football, not reports about his private life.

Cole, who has attracted a number of negative headlines, told BBC Sport: "I've made mistakes and have just got to live with it."

But he added: "Judge me on how I play football or on when you meet me."

His remarks come after new Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas said he wanted his players to be role models.external-link

Cole's conduct was questioned this year when he shot a work experience student with an air rifle at the club's training ground.

The England international, 30, also went through a very public divorce from pop star wife Cheryl last year.

Earlier in his career, he was fined £100,000 by the Premier League for holding secret talks with Chelsea while still under contract to former club Arsenal.

In an exclusive interview in New York, which will be aired on BBC's Football Focus in the coming weeks, the left-back said his mother found it difficult to read some of the stories written about him.

"What parent wouldn't?" he said. "But at the end of the day I just want to play football, I'm here to play football.

"I just wish people would judge me more on football and speak about football more than a life that people don't really know."

Cole was also adamant that the shooting incident was blown out of proportion.

"If someone had actually seen the incident - you wouldn't laugh because it was a stupid thing to do - but the whole situation was crazy. Of course it was an accident," he insisted.

"But if I wanted to address every single thing in the paper I'd lose my mind. It makes me crazy now when I hear things.

"But like I say, you've just got to deal with it. I'm just here to play football. That's all I want to do."

Cole was in New York to meet US rapper Jay-Z because the pair are opening a restaurant in London next year. They were brought together by NVA Entertainment's Chris Nathaniel, an entrepreneur working in the sports and music industry.

The restaurant will provide jobs for young people from underprivileged backgrounds and a donation will be given to charity each month from the profits.

Cole insisted the project was not about rebuilding his public image.

"I don't do things to try and get publicity or anything like that. It was a great way for me to be working with people like Jay-Z and with great entrepreneurs who are going to try and make this restaurant a success," he said.

"I know how hard it is to get a job because my mum had chances to get a job and never got them so hopefully I can give something back and this is a great way of doing it."

Cole also admitted he did "not know too much" about Villas-Boas, the 33-year-old who was named Chelsea manager in June.

Cole said: "I know he was a scout when Jose Mourinho was there [as Chelsea manager] and I used to see him about. But then he went to a lower club in Portugal [Académica de Coimbra] and got them up, then won the triple with Porto, so he's got a good CV under him.

"But whoever it was coming in, we're just going to play as hard as we can and try and win trophies.

"I don't think age matters. A lot people know him from his time at Chelsea. From what I do remember, he is a great guy and he's friendly. So it doesn't matter about the age - we're all just going to play. He's the manager and we got to respect him and do the best that we can for him.

"In football, this is what happens. You have managers and they come and go. Of course you're going to miss them because you had a good relationship with them. But this is football and hopefully I can have a great relationship with this guy."

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