The 32-year-old is expected to become only the seventh player in history to earn 100 caps for the Three Lions when he starts against Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday.
However, the Chelsea left-back says that it was a talk with his boyhood hero, who died from cancer in 2001, during his time in North London that helped inspire him.
"I never thought a little boy from the East End would get a chance to represent my country," said Cole. "I am proud, privileged and overwhelmed by how many times I have done it. When I retire I will look back and think I achieved something.
"I supported Arsenal at the time and he was someone I wanted to be like. After he spoke to me for those five minutes, it was all I wanted to be.
"Now I look back and think what a great career I have had but I will never forget speaking to him."
Cole left Arsenal in 2006 having come through the club's youth system.