In the latest edition of Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ series, we look at Joe Cole. Cole came through the academy at West Ham United and stayed with the club from 1998 to 2003, and made a return in January 2013.
Returning Players – Joe Cole
First Spell at West Ham United
In his first spell at West Ham, Joe Cole became a popular player with fans over five seasons at the Boleyn Ground, where he played 150 times, scoring 13 goals. Cole came through the youth setup at West Ham, signing his first professional contract in 1998.
Cole played alongside Michael Carrick in a strong youth team that won the 1999 FA Youth Cup, obliterating Coventry City 9-0 over two legs and, in the same season, he helped the first team to European success in the Intertoto Cup. Whilst not a big tournament, it ensured that Cole was to become a first-team regular with his fast pace and trickery on the wings.
Cole was only 21 when the late Glenn Roeder entrusted him with the club captaincy, following in the footsteps of legends such as Bobby Moore.
Despite the likes of Cole and Carrick being much-valued youngsters, the talent did not result in success on the pitch and even though Cole won player of the year in 2003, the club were relegated from the Premier League. As a result, Cole was one of several players who left West Ham to continue their careers in the top league in English football.
Teams That Joe Cole Played for in Between
In between his two spells at West Ham, Cole played for Chelsea and Liverpool, with his time at Stamford Bridge being more fruitful than his time at Anfield. He won a Premier League winners medal at the end of the 2004/05 season after chipping in with eight league goals. The following season, he was a key part in another title win for Chelsea, followed by the FA Cup in the 2006/07 season.
Cole got close to a Champions League winners medal in 2008 only to face heartbreak as Manchester United won a tense penalty shootout. Ironically, Cole had been taken off and replaced by Nicolas Anelka, who then missed the deciding penalty which deprived Chelsea of the trophy.
It was still a successful period for the player at Chelsea and when he left for Liverpool in the summer of 2010, he had three league titles, two FA Cups and a League cup to his name.
Cole’s Liverpool career was a somewhat strange one following his transfer from Chelsea on a free. He made 32 appearances in his first season but in 2011, he went out on loan to French side Lille. His his debut was marked by a mazy and skilful final that took him past four players to set up a goal for his new team. It was a demonstration of the ability Cole possessed when at his best.
Despite returning to Liverpool after one season away, Cole was still not in favour or in form at Anfield and a return to his boyhood club on an 18-month deal ended his nightmare, where he managed just 42 appearances for the Reds.
Return to West Ham
Cole began with two assists on his return to West Ham before scoring his first goal against Queens Park Rangers before a hamstring injury led to him missing many games. In his short spell back at Upton Park, he managed five goals in 37 games before his West Ham career came to an end and he joined Aston Villa on another free transfer.
It will his first spell at West Ham that Cole will be most remembered for by fans and he remains a fan favourite. In total, he turned out 180 times for Hammers, scoring 17 goals.