Former West Ham and England midfielder Joe Cole announced his retirement from playing earlier this week. After the initial reaction of this making me feel very old (!), I thought I’d piece together previous articles I’ve written on Joey from an England, Chelsea and Liverpool perspective. He was one of my favourite players when he broke through with the Hammers at the turn of this century – after sadly having to leave the club to win trophies, I was delighted when he returned to east London for a second spell earlier this decade. I wish Joey all the best in his retirement – who knows, maybe we’ll see him back for a third stint in some capacity in the future?!
Joe Cole was born in Paddington on the 8th November 1981 and was a prodigious young talent who was linked with a £10m move to Manchester United before he’d even made his professional debut. Likened to Paul Gascoigne, Cole made his debut at the age of 17 in January 1999 in a 1-1 FA Cup draw at home against Swansea; his league debut arrived eight days later in a 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford. Cole was a key figure in the Hammers’ FA Youth Cup winning team in 1999 and also played his part in the senior team’s InterToto Cup success later that summer. His first goal for the club came in a 3-2 League Cup win at Birmingham in November 1999 while his first league strike came in the 5-4 win over Bradford in February 2000.
Cole scored five goals in 2000/01, including one in the 3-0 win at Coventry and strikes in the 1-1 home draws with Bradford and Coventry. He also notched crucial goals in the 3-1 home win over Derby and 3-0 home victory over Southampton as the under-performing Hammers secured their survival in the top flight the weekend before Harry Redknapp’s departure.
Cole made his England debut on 25th May 2001 in a 4-0 friendly win over Mexico at Derby’s Pride Park and scored his first goal under new Hammers manager Glenn Roeder in the 3-0 FA Cup third round win at Macclesfield in January 2002. The skilful midfielder was part of England’s 2002 World Cup squad and got his 2002/03 campaign off to a flyer, scoring from distance to give the Irons the lead against champions Arsenal only for the Gunners to eventually claim a 2-2 draw at Upton Park. The season was a turbulent one, with Cole one of the few players to emerge with credit from a campaign which would end in relegation. Joey also scored in the 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham, the 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough, the 3-2 FA Cup third round home win over Nottingham Forest and the 2-2 home draw with Newcastle. He was named captain by Roeder in January 2003 and was voted Hammer of the Year by the club’s supporters at the season’s end. Cole scored his first England goal in his tenth appearance for his country on 3rd June 2003 in a 2-1 friendly win over Serbia & Montenegro at Leicester’s Walkers Stadium.
The 21-year-old Cole left West Ham United in the summer of 2003 to sign for Chelsea in a £6.6m deal, having scored 13 goals in 150 appearances for the Hammers. His second England goal came on 16th November 2003 in a 3-2 friendly defeat to Denmark at Old Trafford. Cole became a regular in Jose Mourinho’s 2004/05 Premier League title-winning team, scoring nine goals in all competitions. His third England goal was scored on 26th March 2005 in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Northern Ireland at Old Trafford.
2005/06 saw Cole score a career-high 11 goals in a season in all competitions, earning himself a place in the PFA Team of the Year as Chelsea retained their Premier League title. He scored two goals for England during the season, the first being the winner in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying triumph at Wales’ Millennium Stadium on 3rd September 2005 and the other coming in a 2-1 friendly win over Uruguay at Old Trafford on 1st March 2006. Cole started all five of England’s matches at the 2006 World Cup, scoring a stunning, dipping volley in a 2-2 Group B draw against Sweden in Cologne on 20th June 2006.
The following campaign was an injury-hit one for Cole but he did score for England at the end of the season, in a 3-0 European Championship qualifying win in Estonia on 6th June 2007. He was back to his best in 2007/08 – he reached double figures in the scoring charts again, won the Chelsea Player of the Year Award and played in the Champions League Final. Cole also scored home and away against West Ham that season, refusing to celebrate his strike in Chelsea’s 4-0 win at Upton Park in March 2008.
Cole scored a late equaliser against the Czech Republic at Wembley in a 2-2 friendly draw on 20th August 2008 and followed that up with a double in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Andorra on 6th September 2008. A knee injury kept Cole out for the second half of the 2008/09 campaign and his final game for the Blues was the FA Cup Final against Portsmouth in May 2010, Chelsea winning the match 1-0. After seven years at Stamford Bridge in which he scored 40 goals in 281 appearances and won three Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one League Cup, one Community Shield and was a Champions League finalist, Cole joined Roy Hodgson’s Liverpool on a free transfer in the summer of 2010. Earlier that summer, Cole had won the last of his 56 England caps at his third World Cup – he had scored ten goals for his country.
Cole made his Liverpool debut in August 2010 against Rabotnicki in the Europa League, creating the opening goal for David Ngog in a 2-0 win. His league debut against Arsenal at Anfield lasted just 45 minutes though, as he was sent off for a challenge on Laurent Koscielny. Cole missed a penalty against Trabzonspor in the Europa League third qualifying round first leg but did score his first goal for the club against Steaua Bucharest in a Europa League match at Anfield the following month. He scored his first Premier League goal for Liverpool in a 2-1 win against Bolton in January 2011 and scored his first and only goal of Kenny Dalglish’s reign in a 5-0 win against Birmingham at Anfield in April.
Cole spent the 2011/12 season on loan at French side Lille but his Anfield career looked more promising after Brendan Rodgers took over – in November 2012, Cole was given a start against BSC Young Boys in the Europa League, providing a cross for Jonjo Shelvey to score the opener and then scoring Liverpool’s second himself in the 2-2 draw. On 9th December 2012, he scored Liverpool’s second at Upton Park as the Reds beat West Ham 3-2.
31-year-old Joey returned to the Boleyn Ground in early January 2013, signing for Sam Allardyce’s Hammers on a free transfer. He set up both goals on his second debut for the club as James Collins scored twice in a 2-2 FA Cup third round draw with Manchester United and scored himself in the 1-1 home draw with Q.P.R. and the 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham.
Cole started the 2013/14 season with a bang, notching the Hammers’ first goal of the campaign in a 2-0 home win over Cardiff in August 2013 before scoring in the 3-0 win over Fulham in November. His final goal for the Hammers came in the 3-3 home draw with West Brom in late December 2013. Cole’s last appearance for West Ham came in the 2-0 defeat at Manchester City in May 2014 and he left the club later that summer after his contract expired, signing for Aston Villa. Cole had scored five goals in 37 appearances in his second spell in east London, taking his totals for the Hammers to 18 goals in 187 matches.
Following a spell with Coventry, Cole, now 37, most recently played for Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL, the second tier of the American soccer pyramid. He announced his retirement on Tuesday.
All the best Joey – COYI..!