Signing for £2 million from Chelsea in the summer 2006, Carlton Cole was bought to provide cover for the injured Dean Ashton and add to the already impressive forward line of Marlon Harewood and an ageing Teddy Sheringham.
I remember thinking as he came on for his debut with a minute to go against Charlton Athletic: What’s the point? What is the lad going to do in a minute? My answer was for him to take a first time right footed shot that flew past Dean Kiely. The problem with our hero here is this is the good Cole, the confident Cole, the lethal finisher. However, on too many occasions, by more than one manager, he has been left hung out to dry.
Carlton is a victim of his own stature. At 6ft 2in he casts a big figure at the spearhead of what essentially is a forward three, employed not just by Sam Allardyce but also Avram Grant. This leaves him extremely isolated, feeding off scraps. None more so than in a recent trip to Anfield. Now I can already here people’s thoughts; “but he should have scored!” and I agree he possibly should have but, how many of us wouldn’t snatch at a chance in front of the Kop? Especially, when you’ve had limited game time in the last two months?
The biggest problem with Carlton is that we simply don’t play to his strengths. He likes the ball to feet. It’s that simple, he also likes a second striker to link with, or at least someone just off behind him. On a cold February evening in Lancashire I saw that lethal first time finishing again. After some delicate one touch passing between David Di Michele and Mark Noble, the ball came to Cole edge of the area, and first time, caressed the ball into the far corner.
It was voted the 2008/09 goal of the season. Earlier that campaign we had also witnessed an absolute mammoth of a strike against Spurs. First touch, off the chest, followed by a left foot volley into the back of the net. Again I can hear people saying: “Yeah? And what about the superb pass to Jermain Defoe for his goal?” Granted it was not his finest moment but I feel people and, more importantly, the keyboard warriors of certain websites and regulars who watch the games in the pub or online judge him harshly.
I refused to pay the £45 it cost to go to Anfield. Especially given they are not the team they once were. So I took my seat in the pub I work part-time in and continued to listen in silence for 90 minutes, to the absolute dross of moronic supporters who don’t understand the game. This season has shown it more than any other, the problems with Cole.
Andy Carroll, the £35 million Geordie striker, is purpose built for an Allardyce side. Big and strong in the air, he is absolutely designed for the style of play but Carlton on the other hand has never liked that style. He was brought up in the surroundings of Chelsea, with the likes of Zola, Vialli, Di Matteo and even Guillt. All these men are advocates of the beautiful game with the ball on the deck and played to feet. However, despite this and despite being marked by three men, Carlton Cole won five flickons in the second half alone. But, all I could here is; “He’s done nothing! He’s not good enough!”
But I disagree, Cole needs the players around him to help his game. Zola knew this and that is how he got the best out of him. The biggest problem I find is the unbelievable expectations of Hammers fans. I always thought we had time for hard working players despite some floors in their ability? Clearly I’m wrong! Carlton should be a 20 goal a season striker and because he isn’t, he’s not good enough! I even heard one “supporter” state that we shouldn’t spend £18 million or £100k a week wages on Carroll but should sign (are you ready?) Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert for £10million a piece and give them £50k a week wages.
Now I have never been an advocate of Grant Holt, since I saw him play for Shrewsbury Town against Accrington Stanley. On the other hand Rickie Lambert is a player I said we should buy in January 2011, stating if he didn’t score the goals to keep us up, he would at least score the goals to get us up! Alas, I was laughed at by supporters who said £3.5million for a League 1 player? Behave! However, spending £20 million on two strikers and £100k a week in wages, for two players with the combined age of 62, I think proves my point about some West Ham fans.
Carlton Cole is out of contract this summer and looks set to leave the club as our second longest servant. I know he has his own song, but let’s face it we’ve all heard it sung about Joe Cole since he’s been back. I, for one, don’t think you can replace passion, dedication and after taking a wage drop to stay in the Championship and fight for promotion, including a goal in the play-off final. Carlton deserves a lot more respect than he ever gets from the terraces and most certainly a new contract.