Eight years ago, Joe Cole netted that stunning goal against Sweden in Germany. Four years ago, the midfielder was preparing for his third appearance at the World Cup Finals as part of Fabio Capello’s twenty three man squad in South Africa.
Fast forward to the present, though, and the thirty two year old has been forgotten by both club and country, with West Ham set to release the former Chelsea man this summer. Where did things go so wrong?
Whilst thirty four year old Steven Gerrard will be leading England out in Brazil alongside thirty five year old Frank Lampard, Cole will spend the summer desperately trying to secure a new club. In a similar manner to current MK Dons midfielder Alan Smith, Cole’s career has fizzled out following serious injury.
The cruciate ligament rupture suffered at the age of 27 in an FA Cup Third Round tie against Southend United unfortunately marked the beginning of the midfielder’s sharp decline.
Prior to this career-defining moment, Cole was regularly the subject of some harsh public criticism from his manager Jose Mourinho. Like Eden Hazard in the recent defeat to Atletico Madrid, the “Special One” questioned the Englishman’s defensive contributions to his side.
In a 1-0 win over Liverpool back in 2004 where Cole bagged the winner, Mourinho stated: “When he scored the goal the game finished for him. After that I needed 11 players for my defensive organisation and I had just 10.”
In his second coming at Stamford Bridge, players like Hazard and Juan Mata have since received what the media like to call the “Joe Cole” treatment.
But it was under the “Special One” where Cole enjoyed the most productive spell of his career. Despite considering himself to be a central option, the Englishman established himself in a strong Chelsea side out on the left. Speaking about Cole at a later date, Mourinho said: “We transformed that player into the kind of inside-winger, right and left, strong defensively. He was fantastic. I was so pleased with what we did with him.”
It was out on the left where Cole represented England in the 2006 World Cup.
However, Cole struggled to impress any of the subsequent Chelsea managers. Prior to the injury, the midfielder lifted two Premier League titles and earned fifty three of his fifty six England caps. After that, though, Cole found himself on the periphery of Carlo Ancelotti’s double winning side in 2010 and was released in the summer.
Injury has unfortunately tainted the career of one of English football’s most gifted talents in recent years, but the decline has also been accelerated by a series of poor choices. Chelsea decided to cut their losses on the midfielder allegedly due to his excessive wage demands.
In hindsight, Cole must regret following the money to Liverpool over other offers before choosing to remain at Anfield following a productive loan spell at Lille. The midfielder enjoyed something of a renaissance in Ligue 1 and the French club were keen to make the move permanent, only for the midfielder to shun their advances.
The bank balance may be a lot healthier but the footballing prospects now look bleak. Cole was quickly ushered out of Liverpool in January 2013 after Brendan Rodgers publicly slammed the midfielder’s performance in the Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea and the player’s “astronomical” wages. A romantic return to his boyhood club failed to materialise under Sam Allardyce at West Ham, the midfielder was still on the periphery and started just six times in the league this season.
When recently asked about his future, Cole stressed his desire and motivation to continue playing. The midfielder stated: “At my age and where I am in my career, I want to enjoy my football. I love competing and I just want to play.”
But at the same time, it appears that Cole has already begun planning for a life outside of the game. Owner of a restaurant in Chelmsford, Essex, the player has done some punditry work on ITV and is currently subscribed to a UEFA “B” coaching licence course.
Injury and poor choices have irrevocably tainted one of English football’s most gifted talents in recent years. The high of that goal against Sweden will never be matched again.
At the age of thirty two though, there is a chance that another manager could be tempted to take a gamble on Cole for one last time.