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Cole unfazed by troublesome ankle


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Ashley Cole believes the backroom staff at Chelsea can help prolong his career as he learns to deal with the legacy of a troublesome ankle.

The England left-back, 29, has had two operations on his ankle, including surgery on a fracture in February.

"I owe a lot to the physios and the staff," Cole told BBC Radio 5 live. "I speak to the manager and sometimes I don't train.

"We have great facilities and hopefully it will keep my career going longer."

Cole fractured his ankle on 10 February during a 2-1 defeat at Everton last season but, after a three-month absence, recovered in time for England's ill-fated 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa.

Although he has avoided any further problems, the question of how the former Arsenal man can best recover from competitive action is now an increasingly important part of the Chelsea backroom staff's planning.

"After games it [the ankle] gets a bit stiff," Cole revealed. "It's not as if I can't train.

"I can train the next day if I want but the coaches here and the medical department say: 'Just stay inside and rest. You don't need to go out, you run enough in the games'."

And the full-back reckons that he has been in excellent form this season as the west Londoners defend their Premier League title.

"After my ankle operation I felt freer and could move better," he said. "I think I've got back to my best and maybe even better."

Cole and Chelsea's fine season continued on Wednesday as they beat Spartak Moscow to qualify for the knockout stage of Europe's top club competition with two games to spare.

The competition has not been kind to the men from Stamford Bridge in recent years - they lost on penalties to Manchester United in the 2008 final, while Barcelona halted their progress in the 2009 semi-final, and eventual winners Inter Milan knocked them out at the last-16 stage last season.

But after victory over Russian champions Moscow, which maintained Chelsea's 100% record in Group F, boss Carlo Ancelotti admitted his side's sights are firmly set on bringing the trophy to Stamford Bridge for the first time when the final is played at Wembley in May 2011.

However, Cole insisted that despite near-misses in Europe, retaining the Premier League title remains his number one target this term.

"For me to win the Premier League is what I want to do every year," stated Cole, whose team top the domestic table by five points from Arsenal and Manchester United.

"To be champions of England is a great achievement, especially with how good this league is.

"There's a lot of players who said, 'We had on our hand on the Champions League, our fingers on it', and, of course, it got taken away from us. So, I think that's in the back of our minds.

"And a lot of players here want to win that because they've not done that. I'm no different, it would be nice to win the Champions League but, as I said, the Premier League's what I want to win more."

Although some of Chelsea's key players are over 30, Cole affirmed: "If you look at the experience and the quality and how fit these guys are, it doesn't matter what the age is.

"Lamps [Frank Lampard] runs for fun and Didier [Drogba] is strong. Everyone's getting old but we're still playing well, we're experienced together, we know how we want to play and how each other plays and so far it's healthy."

Cole's private life has often been publicised in the media, and he again made headlines in September when he and pop star wife Cheryl divorced.

But Cole brushed aside his off-field issues, saying: "As long as my family, manager and team-mates are happy, then I'll be happy.

"Other things - you just got to get on with it. It happens in life. I'm here to play football and that's it."

Aside from the press coverage that accompanied his celebrity marriage, Cole has also come in for barracking from the stands - particularly from fans of his former club Arsenal whom he left for Chelsea, following a tapping-up controversy, in 2006.

However, Cole maintains he has learned to deal with the criticism.

"I probably would say I've changed. Now, I'm a little bit more relaxed and just go with the flow," he reflected.

"When I started at Arsenal I was a young guy playing for the team I supported. You're just happy, you don't know what you're actually getting yourself into.

"You just think it's all happy, it's all fun. But you have to take the good with the bad. I've had my bad times but I just want to play football and keep winning things and one day look back and say: 'You know what? I had a great career'."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/c/chelsea/9161521.stm

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