Cole was voted England player of the year in a poll on the FA website, after a year in which he was one of the few players to emerge from the World Cup with his reputation untarnished. Steven Gerrard came second in the poll, with Adam Johnson third.
The Chelsea left-back has had a turbulent relationship with supporters during a career in which his private life has frequently been in the spotlight. He is also reviled by Arsenal fans over the circumstances of his departure in 2006.
“It came as a big surprise to me,” he said. “I never thought I would get this award with all the other players who were in the running. I never thought it would be me, but I’m very proud and thankful to the fans.”