On Friday 4th January, West Ham made their first signing of the January transfer window. A sense of euphoria could be felt around the training ground as the original boy wonder, Joe Cole, was back home.
Ten years on from his departure, Joe Cole has come back to the Boleyn and it is fair to say that since he left after relegation in 2003, his career has fluctuated. His time spent at Chelsea was very successful as Stamford Bridge witnessed the pinnacle of his time as a footballer. Three Premier League titles and three FA Cups later and Chelsea decided not to renew his contract in the summer of 2010. His form at his next club, Liverpool suggests that Chelsea made the right decision to let him go.
His subsequent spells at Liverpool and Lille both proved to be largely uneventful as he slowly drifted out of form and also the national team picture as McLaren, Capello and now Hodgson have all ignored him. The child prodigy who received national media attention from a very young age is a product of ‘that’ West Ham academy team. Carrick, Lampard, Defoe, Ferdinand, Johnson and so on. Although it may be argued that at least some of the aforementioned players have prospered more than Joe, it doesn’t mean that Joe did not fulfil that early potential.
Despite his second debut for West Ham falling a little over 24 hours earlier from when he had re-signed for Allardyce’s side, critics were already having their say. ‘He’s there for the money’ ‘He’s past it’ ‘West Ham should be looking forwards, not backwards’.
Joe will feel that he has some unfinished business at the club. After leaving swiftly relegation in 2003, it is fair to say Joe has steered well clear of years of ups and downs at West Ham. Firstly, he will want to prove to the fans that he has still got that wonderful combination of both skill and grit that likened him to his boyhood hero, Paul Gascoigne and that he still possesses that burning desire he had as a teenager. Secondly, Joe will want to prove to himself that he can still cut it at the top level of the English game. No disrespect to Ligue 1 in France, but the Premier League is a different kettle of fish.
The 31-year-old arrives having signed an 18-month contract and has also taken a large pay cut in order to make the return happen. This underlines already the passion he has for the club. He even ignored the advances from his ‘father’ in the football world, Harry Redknapp at QPR. His place in the side will be under constant threat with Jarvis, Vaz Te, Taylor and Maiga all vying for roles to support Cole or Carroll or perhaps even Chamakh. But if there is anyone that will thrive under that kind of pressure, it will be our Joe.
As a youngster, alongside Di Canio, Joe Cole was my idol and inspired me to be the (very average) Sunday league player that I was. Something tells me that his second coming may inspire something very similar for many young hammers. Now all we need to do is attract Lampard and Ferdinand back to fuel a Europa League push. Just like old times? Perhaps not!