After a lengthy spell with Chelsea, followed by shorter stints at Liverpool and Lille, Joe returned to his football home last season, Upton Park. The return certainly seems to have had a positive effect on the player as he is visibly sleeker and fitter and playing well. There seems little doubt he is enjoying the sunset of his career back at West Ham. However, ten goals in 56 appearances for England is probably below what most of us expected of him back in 1999. Joe could only seem to fit into the Chelsea and England sides in a wide role where most people seem to think he is less effective? Back now at West Ham it seems that this is the only likely position he will hold down as well. Would Joe have been better served in a more central role? What else could have contributed to Joe not reaching his full potential? A good career should certainly have been a great one, or so we thought.
In 2002 I had a discussion with the late Eddie Baily, former chief scout at West Ham. I was drooling over the prospect of the young Joe Cole and I was surprised that Eddie was adamant that Michael Carrick would become the better player despite not being as gifted. At the time that seemed absurd. Even now trying to evaluate who has had the better career would bring different opinions to the table. However, without going into details, Eddie explained that Carrick had certain traits that would help him fulfil his true potential whilst Cole lacked some of the same characteristics and that would inhibit him from truly fulfilling his. In the end, Eddie was right (IMO).
So now again in 2013 do we have a new wonder kid in our realms? Sir Alex Ferguson believed Ravel was the “jewel in the crown” of his latest generation of starlets, but unloaded the youngster to West Ham as he became continually frustrated with the lad. Off field problems have been well documented and Sam sent Ravel off to Birmingham City for a loan spell. It is believed Kevin Nolan has taken the lad under his wing for some guidance and help. The question beckons – when Ravel does secure his first team place will he be used to his full potential, or will he be fitted into the side, and out of position, as Joe was for much of his career? Will this young prodigy make the most of his undoubted talent or will it be a case of “if only”?
Time will tell but one thing is for sure. The anticipation at West Ham is bubbling again.