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30 stats for Messi's 30th birthday

By ESPN Staff

Cole ready for Champions League final return

Ashley Cole is hoping for a fairytale ending to a season he once considered finished.

The Arsenal defender is preparing for a place in Arsene Wenger's Champions League side against Barcelona on Wednesday and for England's World Cup campaign in Germany.

But Cole, whose season has been wrecked by a succession of injuries, admits he had written off his World Cup dreams earlier in the year.

The 25-year-old confessed: 'It's been really tough for me. I've been out the whole season and I've never been injured for this amount of time before.

'But I think I've come back at the right time. I am looking forward to being involved in the Champions League final and the World Cup.

'I still don't want to count my chickens too early because anything can happen. I thought it was over really. I didn't think about playing again for Arsenal this season and if I didn't play for them I wasn't going to go to the Wrld Cup.

'I did write my season off at one stage but I've had lots of friends and family around me and a girlfriend who has stuck by me when I've been annoying.

'I was out for three months with my foot and then I had a thigh injury. But I did my ankle when I was coming back from my thigh problem so after that I thought I was finished as far as this season was concerned.

'It is every player's nightmare. You are here to play football and when that is taken away from you it is hard.'

Cole's dreams were kept alive by England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. The left-back was heartened by his continual interest in the state of his fitness - unlike club boss Wenger.

While Eriksson was even taking the time and trouble to watch Cole's rehabilitation at reserve games, the England defender revealed that Wenger hardly spoke to him.

Cole added: 'Sven talked to me all the time. He's been really good - he was calling the physios all the time and coming to the reserve games which I don't think a lot of national managers do.

'He kept in contact with me and I am really pleased he kept an eye on me. A lot of people wrote me off and thought I wouldn't make it.

'I was out for so long and the manager (Wenger) had his own things to think about, it is not just about me, it's about the team and winning things. I was not surprised, shocked or offended that he didn't speak to me like that.

'I was really grumpy and he was probably sick of my face. But I miss playing and I wasn't going to be happy until I was playing. Now I am very happy.'