The Chelsea defender's tweet spoke for the common man but the Leeds Rhinos captain revealed class on and off the pitch
Ashley Cole, Man of the People. Overstatement maybe, but his muscular response to the FA's comments about him undoubtedly chimed with the mood of the nation like nothing he has said or done before. I feel sure my reaction to the full-back's cri de coeur was not untypical: "Ah, the old bunch-of-twats argument, I've used it myself."
Who among us has not used similar terms to describe those in authority; employers, law enforcers, the government, in-laws? Sure, as a rallying cry, "bunch of twats" might not quite be up there with "Power to the people" or "Give me liberty or give me death," but in the current economic climate particularly, Cole's notorious hashtag spoke eloquently for the common man struggling under the yoke.
And the FA seems an entirely suitable target for Cole's broadside. Its convolutions over the John Terry case – L'affaire John Terry, as we're calling it on the streets – mishandling of various England managerial appointments, and even its role in the Hillsborough tragedy, leads one to the view that Cole's hashtag should maybe be incorporated into its coat of arms.
So impressed was I by Cole's pithy assessment of his England masters, I felt compelled to hashtag back, #faircomment-onamatterofpublicinterest, and I am prepared to give evidence in the inevitable 14-month, meticulous, expensively lawyered investigation into whether the FA is a bunch of what Cole says they are.
I love Twitter incidentally, unlike Alan Shearer, who said on the BBC's Football Focus: "I don't get this Twitter lark, I have to tell you," and recommended footballers be banned from using it, adding somewhat tangentially: "They do it with motor bikes."
On the contrary, I think footballers should be encouraged to use Twitter and fined if their comments are bland and predictable. Twitter is one of the few chances we, the people, have of hearing directly from footballers, unless you count the PR mush masquerading as interview that Football Focus served us on Saturday; Steven Gerrard plugging his autobiography and Victor Moses hawking a new computer game, for goodness' sake.
The Gerrard piece was forgivable given the player's profile but if you are obliged to screen a shot of some glorified pinball game in order to get access to a Chelsea reserve, is it not time for a public service broadcaster to respond in the style of Cole, and show some old goals or archive of John Motson in his sheepskin coat instead?
The row over Cole's tweet – twatgate, as I like to think it will soon be called – rumbled on all weekend. Garth Crooks suggested on the BBC's Final Score that suitable punishment would be to ban Cole from playing in England's World Cup qualifier on Friday, which seems eminently sensible given that we could probably play Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at left-back against San Marino and get a result.
Roberto Di Matteo's announcement that Cole was to be disciplined by Chelsea was felt important enough to be breaking news during ESPN's coverage of West Ham–Arsenal, thankfully not interrupting Sam Allardyce's interview where he was asked if Andy Carroll was ready to return and said: "He's biting at the bit, as the old cliche goes," one I'm sure that's rarely far from any of our lips.
I happened to catch the match after watching an episode of the excellent documentary series Sporting Greats, featuring the baseball legend Babe Ruth, and that was when the parallels between the American folk hero and our own pantomime villain struck.
When Babe played for the Boston Red Sox, he was "a kinda pain in the neck," the writer Peter Golenbock told the show (see why Cole came to mind?). "There was always some trouble, he was always hitting Harry Frazee [Red Sox owner] for a bit more money." Frazee sold Babe to New York Yankees, said Golenbock, "to get him out of his hair".
Ruth was described as an everyman figure who "ate large, drank large, and womanised large," which is where Cole departs from his baseball counterpart, most of his floozies having been built on more trim lines. Ruth was also described as having "a face that people could relate to," so there is some work for Ashley to do there as well.
Maybe for true folk heroism, we should look to the performance of the Leeds Rhinos captain, Kevin Sinfield, in the Super League Grand Final. After being laid out in a clash of heads that would have had a small army of medics invading the pitch in other sports, Sinfield shook his head, swallowed and spat, and moments later stepped up to faultlessly convert a penalty.
And after 80 minutes of that kind of stuff, he took the mike and delivered to the crowd an articulate, modest and gracious speech, remembering to thank everyone who needed to be thanked. His captaincy and all-round performance were exceptional, and the match was about half as good as Sky's commentators kept telling us it was, which meant it was very good indeed.