The infuriating proficiency of Robin van Persie may have denied Joe Cole a fairytale start to his second coming, but early indications suggest this could prove an inspired reconciliation. The 31-year-old huffed and puffed his way through a debut that lasted 78 minutes and delivered two beautifully crafted deliveries that allowed James Collins to atone for his error in the recent defeat at Reading.
The former England midfielder will need to inject each performance with the same desire and tenacity if his return is to be dubbed a success, but he can certainly provide the creative spark needed to move Big Sam’s well-oiled machine up a gear. Cole lapped up his warm welcome and played with a smile that we haven’t seen since his time at Stamford Bridge. With this in mind, should more players seek out a sentimental return in order to resurrect their career?
West Ham have undoubtedly provided the foundation for a number of players to build promising careers. Two of which, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand, look increasingly likely to end their spell at the summit of the Premier League sooner rather than later. Is it ludicrous to suggest that they too could retrace their steps to the Academy of Football? Neither player will be short of offers, but the Hammers may find themselves in the best position to offer both financial security and regular minutes on the pitch.
If we turn our attention back to the current playing squad, will Andy Carroll find himself fantasying about a return to Tyneside, now Chelsea have finally activated Demba Ba’s release clause? The 24-year-old has showcased glimpses of his capability to terrorise defenders but injuries have prevented him from rediscovering the form he displayed as the Magpies’ boisterous number 9.
Elsewhere in the league, there are a number of Championship graduates who have fallen foul of making the step up far too soon. Connor Wickham has made just 25 appearances – 18 of which have come from the bench – since his high profile move to Sunderland two years ago. Surely a six-month stint back in Ipswich would help revive his depleted confidence levels and help ensure the Tractor Boys steer clear of a relegation battle.
Likewise, Aaron Ramsey may have just secured a long-term contract at Arsenal, but his performances this season portray a player struggling to fulfil his potential. The former Welsh captain has perhaps become the victim of his own impressive versatility, with Wenger ushering him out on the wing to accommodate the return of Jack Wilshere. Considering Cardiff are flying high at the moment, a stint in Wales should offer the perfect environment to alleviate the pressure from his young shoulders.
It’s not just the British who can feel homesick. Perhaps the cure for the ailments hampering Fernando Torres isn’t the wise words of Rafael Benitez but a return to Atletico Madrid. Despite Roman Abramovich’s obvious affection towards his blonde bombshell, even he must be considering using the Spaniard as a means of extracting Falcao from the clutches of Diego Simeone. Torres may not want to admit it, but his newfound lack of pace would perhaps go unnoticed within the subdued nature of La Liga.
The history books are littered with stories of successful homecomings. After Ian Rush was lured to Serie A by the Old Lady, he quickly realised that life in Italy was “like living in a foreign country.” Liverpool swiftly answered his confused cry for help and re-signed the moustached magician a year later, where he would spend another eight successful years at Anfield.
Mark Hughes spent two years away from Manchester United in the mid-eighties in what must have felt like a disappointing backpacking holiday. After an unsuccessful spell under Terry Venables at Barcelona, Hughes was sent on loan to Bayern Munich before returning to Ferguson’s warm embrace, where he would enjoy seven more years of unrivalled success.
I don’t begrudge players that move for money or a shot at the big time, who among would turn down the opportunity of a lifetime? However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that even the best players are struggling to cope with their inflated price tags and the level of expectation that engulfs the modern game.
More and more players are beginning to understand that you can’t put a price on the reality of actually enjoying your football. It may not be pretty and the chances of silverware may turn to dust but sometimes a passionate chant from ‘your own’ supporters is all that is needed to perform at your best. I would argue that even in the world of sport, there’s no place like home.