Frank Lampard has praised Ashley Cole’s fitness and dedication after he scored in just his second appearance for Derby County.
The former England full-back joined the Rams in January and is still working his way back to full fitness. As a result, he has only managed a few minutes playing time before Saturday’s 2-1 FA Cup defeat against Brighton.
Cole was introduced at half-time in the fifth-round clash and even popped up with a shock goal near the end that breathed life in Derby’s crumbling hopes.
“He [Cole] has been working hard,” Lampard told Sky Sports after the game.
“He wasn't quite ready for 90 minutes today but that's a great exercise he has given 45 minutes. I thought he was calm and assured on the ball. He has all the experience from his career and got his goal. It's really good for us and we will need him.
“He’s been a machine all of his career in terms of fitness and looking after himself. He is as lean as anybody and as long as he has the desire then that's his call.
“Ashley had officially been off so it was like ‘when you come back for pre-season you can't go straight into games’, so it was crucial we didn't risk injury for that, but 45 minutes was great for him and now we have a player who is ready to start games.”
The goal was surprisingly Cole’s first in the FA Cup, despite him playing in his 49th match in football’s oldest cup competition. It was also the 38-year-old’s first goal in English football since he netted against Stoke in 2012, a game in which Frank Lampard was also playing.
Despite Cole’s goal it was a disappointing afternoon for the Championship side who now turn their focus towards their promotion push.
“In the first half we were slow, with a lack of urgency,” Lampard said.
“To come to a Premier League team and give them time on the ball is the cardinal sin, you are waiting for them to score. After the first 15 minutes we weren't at the races. Whether it's fear or too much respect, whatever it is, it's not enough to come here and get a result.”