England full-back Ashley Cole regards his international career as “unfinished business”.
The Chelsea defender will win his 98th cap in Sunday’s Euro 2012 showdown with Italy in Kiev, keeping him on target to hit the century mark in the final in Kiev on July 1 should England get that far.
Yet in a rare interview, with BBC Radio Five Live, Cole accepted he nurses a sense of unfulfilled ambition, purely because he has never tasted the feeling of winning a major prize.
“It is unfinished business,” he said.
“You play for your country and it is amazing to do that. But you play to win.
“I have never had the joy of winning with my country.
“I am not getting too ahead of myself or the team but so far it is going well.
“We have a tough game on Sunday but dreams come true and hopefully this can be one of mine.”
Cole’s refusal to speak with the written press stems from the huge amount of negative stories that have been published about him.
Even among the England fans he does not always win favour, despite being voted player of the year in 2010.
He now admits to regrets, while accepting there is little that can be done to change the course of history.
“I would say there are (regrets),” he said.
“But there is nothing I can do about them now. That’s over.
“Footballers are not like any different person. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone learns from them.
“That is what football is about as well.”
If there is one person who rivals Cole for negative publicity, it is Chelsea team-mate John Terry.
Yet the pair share the same ability to distance themselves from whatever has happened away from the football field and produce high-class performances on it.
“He has been a great servant for Chelsea,” said Cole.
“Whatever has gone on in his life, he has put to the back of his mind and done his job in a great professional way.
“He is someone who would put his body on the line for any team and any player he plays with. He is a joy to play with.”
Yet Cole could extend the same sentiments to any one of his current England team-mates.
“With most English lads, and you see it with this group, we are like 11 bulldogs, who always work for each other and die on the pitch for each other,” he said.
“So far it has worked.”
Cole’s dedication to football has certainly paid off handsomely.
As a young boy growing up in a tough area of London, he is a living example of how determination, allied to ability can provide a platform for success, with Arsenal, then Chelsea, even if the move between the two created even more controversy.
“I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me when I was a 16-year-old coming through the Arsenal youth team,” he said.
“When you are growing up, you want to win caps and play as many games as you can for your country. I have been lucky enough to play 97 times and, you never know, hopefully get to 100 in the final.
“It is what little kids’ dreams are made of.
“If you put your mind to it you can do anything. It was hard for me growing up with my mum and brother but I always had my family behind me to do what I enjoy.
“I just loved football, being outside with my mates and getting really muddy, dirty and smelly.
“At 16, when you are in the youth team of any club, you watch the first team and you want to emulate that and be those players.
“I am so lucky to have had the career I have had and play with so many amazing players.”
Meanwhile, Scott Parker has reflected on what could be his only European Championship and said: “It probably has been everything I hoped it would be.”
A first major tournament has been a long time coming for Parker, who has proven something of a late developer for club and country.
The Tottenham midfielder, 31, made his international debut almost a decade ago but missed out on one European Championship and two World Cup squads before finally getting the call for Euro 2012.
“It has been a while,” he added. “At 31, it’s my first major tournament.
“It’s been fantastic. It always is when you are progressing and winning like we have.”
Parker has been central to England’s unexpected Group D success, seemingly determined to take his chance on the big stage and knowing there may not be another one, with younger players set to come through in time for the 2014 World Cup.
It was far from certain he would be fit for Euro 2012, a niggling Achilles injury threatening to curtail his involvement even after he arrived in Poland and Ukraine.
“I feel fine,” Parker said as he prepared for his fourth game in less than a fortnight, Sunday’s crunch quarter-final against Italy.
“I had a good rest towards the end of last season that rejuvenated me a little bit. Coming out of a long season, I have not played as much towards the end of it. Hopefully, it’ll help push me through.”