Open letters are all the rage at the moment If it’s good enough for Sinead O’Connor and Miley Cyrus then we might as well all be writing to each other via open media.
I’ve always wanted to write a letter to our dear friend Carlton Cole but after considering the open letter route, I’ve decided against it. It would be a completely pointless letter, because if Carlton ever got hold of it, he’d scratch his head and just be thinking “what was that all about?”.
One minute it would be an open love letter and the next it would be a written warning. Love him or hate him, Carlton Cole is undoubtedly one of the nicest men in football. His television interviews portray him as a gentle, humorous character, whilst his off-field persona cements his reputation as an all round good egg.
So is this what enchants us to have such a love/hate relationship with our striker? His most recent recorded interview ahead of the fixture against Fulham was as honest and humble as you can hope for in football. He spoke of his options after leaving Upton Park but revealed what we all knew, that he only had eyes for one club. He was also very gracious about being left on the bench since his return. Although obviously eager to get on and play football, he noted that his head needed to be down in order to impress and not complain.
Before his departure at the end of the 12/13 season, Cole had made 210 league appearances for the Hammers. To put that into perspective, Mark Noble as a Hammer throughout his career has notched up 224 at the time of writing. So really, Cole is as much part of the club as the man who has dedicated his whole career to the team.
It goes without saying that if you spend so much time watching someone, you’re going to grow fond of them, especially someone with the heart of Carlton. It seems to work both ways – Carlton just can’t help but be captivated by the club and the fans, which left him wanting more once his contract ended in summer 2013. Now, he’s back until at least January 2014, and after returning to the score sheet against Fulham, he’s on his way to proving why he should keep his place in the squad for another term. But he’ll have to improve on his woeful two goals from last season.
I understand that he was played in a system in which he struggled, but for me, there were more goals in him despite his discomfort in playing alone or, on occasions, alongside Andy Carroll. I guess when you put the two together the big target man is going to eclipse the slightly clumsy, misfiring man. To throw a few stats into the mix, Cole had a goal to game success rate of 7 per cent last season.
Across his entire West Ham career in the leagues, his return is a better at 22 per cent. Andy Carroll’s success since linking up with the Hammers? 29 per cent. But what about the frustrations that come with Cole? There’s enough of them. I’ve had countless conversations with other West Ham fans who just cannot comprehend how he makes such schoolboy errors in what is widely known as the best league in the world.
There are chances that Carlton really should put away with ease, but he has this way of going about things that just makes it look like the most awkward thing in the world. And then there’s his occasional inability to run or jump or even see it seems. When rumours surfaced of his imminent departure last year, I wrote an article declaring my love for him, but I felt it was really time for him to go. He’d had his day and probably had nothing more to offer. In fact, at times, I felt his inclusion in the team rather hindered rather than helped.
Take the play-off final in 2012 for example. The fans are having a great time at Wembley, Cole had gone to the trouble of putting us 1-0 up despite us probably being on the back foot for most of the first half. Then what happens? Carlton Cole all but gifts Blackpool an equaliser. His mistake to give the ball away cost us dearly at the time.
That is something that over time I have started to forgive, but only because Vaz Te did us a favour and sealed promotion in the dying minutes. I don’t think I will ever forget the anger I felt for Carlton when he did that. Up in the heavens of Wembley we were raging. Despite Cole’s downfalls, I don’t ever like to see our own player being booed off, which is something that he has been unfortunately subjected to in his time in claret and blue. That is unacceptable. I hope that will never happen again to him, because as clueless as he sometimes is, he gives 100 per cent to this club and I think he always will. We can’t ask more than that really.
Singing “always believe in your soul…” to him started off as a bit of a joke, but I’ll never forget seeing his eyes light up when we first started singing it to him. He appreciates hearing his name sung by the fans he loves, and most of the time we love him back. I’d hate for Cole to leave in January not knowing that we appreciate everything; the goals, the pay cut, the effort. He might be a dodgy Premier League striker…but he’s our dodgy Premier League striker.