As Joe Cole’s contract comes to a close at Stamford Bridge he must look to join a club outside the top four English teams to ensure that he has a chance to fulfil his potential.
Stories of Joe Cole missing school in order to work on his skills are legion, and his undying love for having the ball at his feet led him to being tagged as the most gifted player to come out of the West Ham academy since Bobby Moore. The star player in a team relegated from the Premiership in 2003, Cole got his big move to Chelsea along with the number 10 shirt and it seemed that the only way was up. However since Cole left Upton Park his career has gone in fits and starts, one moment he is a free-scoring regular for Chelsea and England and the next he can’t buy a game.
Cole’s biggest problem throughout his career is that he has been a victim of his own brilliance and therefore has never established himself in a position. For an English player he possesses phenomenal technical ability but has at times been held back by his lack of discipline and his desire to create something out of nothing. For the majority of his time at Stamford Bridge Cole has been seen as more of luxury rather than a regular first teamer by the likes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, and as someone who doesn’t fit in with the rigid culture that surrounds the West London Club.
The time when Joe Cole flourishes is when he is the focal point of the teams play and is given the license to dictate the game; much like he did for a short period at West Ham and much like Cesc Fabregas now does for Arsenal and as Steven Gerrard does for Liverpool. Cole’s footballing ability is equal to anyone’s and should he be given the chance to occupy this kind of role his career would flourish. But sadly, as attractive as he is, Cole does not fit Chelsea’s physically robust and disciplined style of play built around the qualities of Drogba, Lampard and Terry.
If Joe Cole were to move to Old Trafford this summer, as it has been reported he might, he could succumb to the same fate that he’s suffered at Chelsea. He will never be at the same level of Wayne Rooney, and it is accepted that even the best teams can only afford to give one player a free role within the side and Rooney will occupy that at United all the while he is there.
Cole should look at the likes of Alan Shearer and Gareth Southgate to learn how he could better his career. Both of these players turned down a lucrative move to Manchester United and have had very successful careers because of it. After having his potential recognised during his 152 appearances for Crystal Palace Southgate moved to Aston Villa and ended up being their club captain, more importantly however he became one of the first names on the England team sheet for over five years. In 1996 Alan Shearer turned down a move to Old Trafford, where he would have been competing against the likes of Andy Cole, Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona for a starting place, to be the main man at Newcastle’s under Kevin Keegan and went on to become one the greatest strikers England has ever seen. If Joe Cole wanted to look for more recent examples of how playing regular football can help your career prospects then Gareth Barry and Glen Johnson suffice. Since leaving Chelsea for Portsmouth Johnson has become England’s clear first choice right back and is now arguably one of the best defenders in the Premiership. Gareth Barry had his career saved by Martin O’Neill who refused to sell him to Liverpool. Instead of going to Anfield Barry stayed at Aston Villa for an extra season and ended up moving to Manchester City, where he is now the linchpin of their midfield and is imperative to England’s chances this summer.
It is not only Joe Cole that needs to learn that simply playing football is the most important thing when it comes to the progression of a career. Gareth Bale’s career has halted since he left Southampton, Darren Bent went backwards when he left Charlton for Spurs, Wayne Routledge has started to resurrect his career since dropping down to the Championship, and what has happened to Jon Bostock? Bostock left Crystal Palace for Spurs after becoming the youngest person ever to play for the Eagles aged 15 and 287 days. Neil Warnock thought so highly of Bostock that he promised to base his entire team’s pattern of play around the then sixteen year old, should he sign a professional contract with Palace. But Bostock left for White Hart Lane in order to “hang his shirt up next to Robbie Keane’s” and he was last seen on loan at Brentford- sitting on the bench.
Joe Cole can do whatever he wants come the end of the season, it’s his career. But if he wants to fulfil his undoubted talent then he has to look away from Chelsea and any other top four team as there is no room for him to flourish there. A club such as Everton, Aston Villa or Fulham would be ideal. What is most important is that Joe Cole moves to a club where his strengths can be exposed and where he can be made to feel important by being given the license to run the game.
If he doesn’t he could find himself being mentioned in a completely different breath to Bobby Moore. Instead of being compared to him as the most naturally talented player to come out of the West Ham, he could be seen as their biggest ever underachiever.
Written by Kieran Lovelock