Last season saw the romantic return of former West Ham icon Joe Cole to Upton Park. Hailed as one of the most talented players to come through the ranks at the famous “Academy of Football”, Cole re-signed for the Hammers after spells at Chelsea and Liverpool. Although he had some mixed success at both clubs, Cole came back with a determined attitude to prove himself once again on the Premier League stage and to repay the faith shown by the Hammers’ fans and coaches during his early years.
Cole started his professional career with the Hammers where he played more than 120 league games during five years. After the Hammers were relegated, Cole joined Chelsea in 2003. During his 7 years at the club Cole won a number of trophies with Chelsea, including three Premier League titles and two FA Cups before joining Liverpool on a free in July 2010. Cole was sent off during his debut for Liverpool and was sent out on loan during the following season.
Many Hammers fans, including myself, were delighted to see the old boy back in claret and blue. Despite Allardyce’s success with the squad, there was a distinct lack of creativity in the team. With Cole being able to play both on the wings and centrally, the Hammers were able to utilise not only his creativity and flair, but his great technical ability.
With the new Premier League season on the horizon, will Cole have a big part to play this season? This would heavily depend on his ability to stay fit. He enjoyed some great form during the early stages of his comeback, but suffered injury towards the end of the season. Cole has always struggled with injuries and will have to overcome these issues to play a key role this year.
If Cole is pushed out wide by Allardyce, he may struggle to make an impact within the team. Whenever he played wide right, he often roamed into the middle of the park to get more involved in the play, allowing the right back to push forward. With Allardyce rumoured to be in the market for another winger, Cole may be forced to the bench to accommodate a more natural winger.
Cole prefers to play in behind the striker as an attacking midfielder, rather than as a winger. As we know Allardyce is a big fan of playing Nolan in behind Carroll, Cole may find his role limited this season. But perhaps Allardyce may look to play a more creative midfielder in the form of Cole in this position next season. Cole’s technical ability is still clear to see; the goal against Spurs being the prime example. Whether Allardyce believes he can stay fit and play a more important role than the likes of Nolan remains to be seen.
It is not just on the pitch that Cole makes an impact. Young players at the club will look at the success he has had during his career both in the Premier League and on the international stage. Cole’s experience is also likely to help these younger players to build on their performances when challenging for the first team. Ravel Morrison being a prime example.
Cole gives a different dimension to Nolan. Where Nolan looks to pounce in the 6 yard box, Cole looks to receive the ball in midfield and run and defenders, looking to open up gaps and exploit them. Last season saw a defense minded approach from the Hammers. Perhaps this season will see Cole play a key role as the creative player in the team.
For me, Cole will play an important role next season, whether he plays out-wide and looks to deliver for Carroll and roam inside to give more of an option in midfield, or whether he is used as the prime playmaker in the team, allowing him to play in behind Carroll more centrally. Having the ability to chop and change things will benefit Allardyce, in what will prove to be an exciting season for the Hammers.
Will Cole play a key role next season? Tweet me @TollyCoburn