By Richard Clarke
Ashley Cole does not see himself as Arsenal's No 1 left back at the moment.
On Sunday, the 25-year-old defender made only his second start since October 2 because of injury, a day later he was named in the England squad for the World Cup. But given the form of Mathieu Flamini and the return of Gael Clichy, Cole does not assume he will be first choice for his club side right now - even though the Champions League Final is eight days away.
"I've probably come back at a good time to try to get my place back off Mathieu Flamini and Gael Clichy, who are in front of me," said the Stepney-born defender.
"I won't say I will be No 1 again because Flamini should be fit soon. But I've played two games and hopefully I will get my place back."
Flamini hobbled off with a hamstring injury during the Champions League Semi-Final second leg. It opened up the opportunity of a return for Cole but it was unbearably cruel on the young Frenchman.
If he and Clichy return to fitness this week the left back will be arguably the most keenly contested position in the build up to the Champions League Final.
"Of course [it is cruel on Flamini]," said Cole. "I'd lost my place to him and Clichy but if Flamini is not fit and I play, I'm not going to argue about that.
"I spoke to the manager and said I don't expect to play in any game. He is an honourable man and if I don't play, that's down to him.
"We shall see [about the Final]. You never know. I've trained hard and worked hard. You need games to get fit. Flamini is out now and you could say he is not going to be fit.
"So I'm going to be positive and if I play, I play. If I don't, I don't."
If May 17 could be the greatest night of Cole's career then Sunday was probably the most bittersweet. A dramatic comeback secured victory over Wigan and fourth place in the Premiership then the Arsenal 'family' said goodbye to Highbury.
"It's very sad," said Cole. "I've been coming here since I was 10 years old so I'm gutted to be leaving such a great stadium with the great memories I've had here, the great games and the great pitch to play on. It's always going to be hard to leave such a great stadium like this."
Cole obviously found it more difficult than most. He joined Thierry Henry and Robert Pires out on the podium in the middle of the pitch long after stadium's countdown clock had reached Days 000, Hours 00, Minutes 00 Seconds 00.
"I was just soaking up the day and stayed out there for as
long as I could," said Cole. "It was a great atmosphere
out there so Thierry and Robert and me wanted to stay out there for
the last moments."
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