The extraordinary career of this ex-West Ham, Liverpool & Chelsea man

When Joe Cole gave his first press interview announcing his imminent move to the Tampa Bay Rowdies last week, the first thing he said was: “I’m not coming for an extended holiday“, to which many raised their eyebrows.

The Coventry City playmaker will make the move to the United States at the end of the season when his current deal expires, where he will be playing in the North American Soccer League (NASL), a level below Major League Soccer. Whilst he has struggled to capture the form his showed in his early playing days for West Ham and Chelsea, he’s still an undoubted talent and his choice to play in the second division in America has been met by some annoyance from Sky Blues supporters.

Coventry boss Tony Mowbray made it extremely clear that his side wanted to keep hold of Cole, but it seems that with his retirement only a few years away, he has made the decision to relocate to the States with his family and play at a considerably lower level. It’s his decision, and the weather is very nice in Florida!

But what about Tampa Bay? Based in the ‘Sunshine State’, they play their home games at the Al Lang Stadium, which holds 7,500 spectators, and they have lofty ambitions to get to the MLS to compete with some of America’s best. Whilst they’ve never played in the top tier of the relatively new league ladder, they finished 5th in their division last year and seem to be edging ever-closer to putting forward a serious case.

The signing of Cole is somewhat of a coup for Stuart Campbell’s side, and whilst it’s a marquee move it’s thought the 34-year-old can still do a job for the second-tier side. We saw his class shine through on a variety of occasions at the Ricoh Arena, including a fantastic free kick reminiscent of his early playing career.

He was once dubbed the new Paul Gascoigne when he first came through the West Ham United, and after joining Chelsea in 2003 he won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the League Cup twice. He made the Premier League team of the year in 2006, before injuries rather ruined his Stamford Bridge career. He joined Liverpool in 2010, but played just over 40 times in three years in an uninspiring spell before going out on loan to Lille in France. he then returned West Ham in 2012.

He scored five goals for the Hammers in a two-year-spell before signing for Aston Villa on a two year deal. He made just 14 appearances for the Midlands side, with 10 of those coming from the bench before linking up with Coventry in October. He’s found relative success at the Ricoh in his later days, but it now appears his future lies away from England.

This once boy-wonder has somewhat fizzled out as the years have gone by, but everyone remembers the quality he showed during his early playing career. Whether he’s moved to America for a holiday, a paycheque or to boost the Rowdies’ reputation, it will be sad to see him go.