Ashley Cole insists he will not be given special treatment by former team-mate Frank Lampard after joining Derby until the end of the season.
The 38-year-old left back has put pen to paper on a six-month deal to seal a reunion with his close friend.
Cole will earn £15,000-a-week during his time at the Championship side as they aim to gain promotion to the Premier League.
Position: Left back
Clubs: Arsenal (1999-2006), Crystal Palace (2000 – loan), Chelsea (2006-14), Roma (2014-16), LA Galaxy (2016-18)
International: England – 107 caps
Honours: Champions League x1, Europa League x1, Premier League x3, FA Cup x7, League Cup x1
Cole said of returning to English football: kind of had a conversation with Frank maybe a month, two months ago and I had a general chit-chat with him. I kept in touch with Lampsy. It was a no-brainer to come here and hopefully push for promotion.
‘Of course it’s going to be a new challenge because I haven’t played in England for five years now.
‘I’m coming from a different culture, a different way of playing, different philosophies. Coming here, it’s cold, it rains. It’s difficult conditions. It’s a tough league with strong players.
‘Again coming out of my comfort zone I could have stayed in the MLS and relax. But I wanted to come here and fight for something. A good cause and try to make promotion. I think it would be great for the club, for Lamps and of course for me as well.
‘This is probably going to be the last interview where I call him Frank. I respect him so much and for what he has done in the little time here. It’s been fantastic and he’s my boss now.
‘It’s not like I’ve come here and expect shortcuts. He’s my boss now and it’s the same with Jody Morris, Chris Jones and Shay Given. I know all these guys. I respect them and they are going to be my kind of bosses.
They play good football. Definitely in the top three in times of style and philosophy. They play great football from the back and have good young players and a few younger players in there. They press and fight, and Lamps has brought that to Derby so I’m looking forward to getting my chance and getting ready to play again.
‘I played with a few of them for England. [David] Nugent, [Tom] Huddlestone I know. Scott Carson. I know a few of them and played against most of them. I hope I can bond with the lads straight away and get into it as quick as I can.
‘I probably wouldn’t have come back to many other teams. I would say it’s down to Lamps really and am I looking forward to it – of course. Different challenge, hard challenge but I’ve always enjoyed challenges.’
Lampard said of the coup: ‘I’m delighted that we’ve been able to secure Ashley’s services for the rest of the season.
‘He’s a fantastic player, a quality left back, and he also brings great experience to the dressing room.
‘I know him very well from our time together at Chelsea, and with England, and I also know what he can bring to the group and the influence he will have.
‘Ashley is in good shape, which doesn’t surprise me because he’s an excellent professional, and he will compete for a place in the side like every other player here.
‘I’ve made my feelings known over the last couple of days just how highly I think of Ashley and I have no doubt whatsoever he will be a positive addition to our squad.’
The 38-year-old’s shock return to English football comes after Lampard persuaded owner Mel Morris to loosen the purse strings for his former Chelsea team-mate.
He joins on a six-month deal, having been a free agent. Cole last played for LA Galaxy until the MLS season finished in October last year.
Ever the consummate professional, the veteran England left back has kept himself in superb condition and will look to hit the ground running under Lampard’s management.
Morris was convinced by Lampard to sanction Cole’s signing as the boss wants to provide cover in areas of his team should injuries strike and views his long-time friend as ideal. The defender, meanwhile, wants game time before deciding whether to retire.
Regarded by many as the best left back of his generation, Cole will bring with him a wealth of experience to Pride Park.
After winning 107 England caps, and 13 trophies at Arsenal and Chelsea, Cole moved abroad in 2014 to join Roma. He signed for LA Galaxy in 2016.