Former England international midfielder Joe Cole has sealed his return to an old stomping ground, signing for West Ham United on an 18-month deal. Cole graduated from the Hammers academy into the first team, and left the club in 2003 to pursue glory with Chelsea.
He returns to the Boleyn Ground at the age of 31 with three Premier League medals and 3 FA Cup winners’ medals to his name, but with a sense around him that he never quite fulfilled his potential. His move from Stamford Bridge to Liverpool proved ill-fated, and an attempt to get back on track with Ligue 1 outfit Lille started brightly but faded.
It’s been clear for some time that Cole didn’t fit into the plans of successive Liverpool managers, and the club’s supporters seem happy enough to see him gone.
In fact, this appears to be a move that works for all parties. Cole moves back to a club where the supporters clearly hold him in high regard and are excited to see him back. West Ham get a player who is ultimately, when on his game, extremely gifted. Does 31-year-old Joe Cole improve West Ham? You bet he does. And according to quotes given to the West Ham website he’s obviously pleased as punch to be back:
“The place has not changed much to look at, but I think Sam has done a great job with the team. A few years ago, the club was in a bad way and Sam has done brilliantly. All in all, it will always be West Ham and the history will always be here and everywhere I go around the world, people love West Ham. Everywhere I go, people know me for having started here.”
Perhaps most importantly for a wizened sentimentalist like me, there’s something undoubtedly romantic about Cole’s return. Many Hammers fans are beaming this morning, and rightly so. There are more than a few clubs in England that would be boosted by a returning hero, my own included, and smiling supporters is an objective too often overlooked.
The slight fly in the ointment is the reported financial make-up of the deal. It works out well for West Ham (who get their man for around £30,000 per week) and for Cole (who will receive £80,000 thanks to a top-up from Liverpool), but it’s a pretty sickening indictment of modern football. Told you I was wizened.
Cole, of course, has been an important player for England for a portion of his career. He has 56 caps, provided a serviceable solution to the age-old “left side problem”, and scored one of the all-time great England World Cup goals. Furthermore, he’s stated in recent months that he’s keen to find his way back into the fold, and this is a move that gives him arguably his best chance.
If he can recapture half of the form he showed at Chelsea – when I thought he was the real deal and at his very best as a rounded player – who could argue with a 57th cap?
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(Photo credit: md.faisalzaman via Flickr)
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