Chelsea and Englander defender Ashley Cole has spoken openly for the first time about tabloid allegations earlier this year that he is gay.

The footballer says the “ugly episode” got under his skin in his book Ashley Cole: My Defence, which is being serialised by The Times this week.

He writes, “I was in North London in February and had just got out of the car when this complete stranger came right up to my face and said, “You’re gay, you are!” and went away laughing.

“It takes a lot to get under my skin, but that got to me. A wild rumour had become a newspaper innuendo, had become a Chinese whisper, had become gossip in internet chat-rooms, leading to me being identified as a gay Premiership footballer. I was angry. Angry for me, angry for Cheryl in the year of my marriage, and angry for Mum.

Last June, Cole received an apology and damages from the News of the World and The Sun following a series of newspaper articles that wrongly claimed him to have been involved in a gay orgy.

The tabloids published a series of articles between the 12th and 19th of February 2006 accompanied with pixelated photographs of Mr Cole and the radio DJ Masterstepz (Ian Thompson) although neither party were named.

The following week, PinkNews.co.uk published an unedited version of the photographs that confirmed that the newspapers were alleging that Mr Cole and Mr Thompson were the parties involved in the alleged orgy.

Following the publication of the photographs on PinkNews.co.uk, Mr Cole and Mr Thompson began legal action against the News of the World and the Sun but not against PinkNews.co.uk.

Cole expresses anger at the rumours which came out at the same time he was marrying Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy, “Cheryl was brilliant, but we both knew that we couldn’t sit back and let it lie. What straight man could take being ridiculed – and that’s what they were doing – for being gay, knowing that thousands of people were talking about it in the year of your marriage?”

“Not that being gay is a bad thing. But the story suggested I was dishonest about my sexuality and, therefore, my marriage to Cheryl was going to be a sham. I weren’t having that.”

Both Cole and DJ Masterstepz have received an apology and damages for the stories from News Group.

Ashley Cole: My Defence, is out on September 21 2006