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Chelsea heroes and legends, where are they now? — Joe Cole, One Of Our Own

A series dedicated to Chelsea legends and cult favorites

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Chelsea v Hull City - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Welcome to the inaugural edition of a series detailing what our club legends and club favorites have been up to post-Chelsea.

It is a great honor of mine to kick off this series with Joe Cole. Cole is a big reason why I fell in love with Chelsea in the first place. I missed out on watching Gianfranco Zola grace our first XI. I did have the pleasure of watching Cole. He had the creativity, the matching flair, the vision, the confidence, and all of the hype. He also had a knack of scoring bangers for our team in some of the tastiest of matchups.

In retrospect, he never exceeded the lofty heights many may have pressed upon him coming out of West Ham’s academy. For me, Cole was a player perfect for the trequartista role. His misfortune was coming into the game in the wrong era. By the time Cole broke through to the professional level, the days where managers were inclined to use a No.10 in their tactical systems were long gone. Tactically, the game had trended away from the playmaking attacking midfielders in the center of the attack.

However, to say his career amounted to nothing would be incorrect. He earned over 50 caps for his country, won three Premier league titles, two FA cups, one league cup, and played a role in our 2008 Champions League runner-up finish. Injuries hamstrung (literally) his career and affected his role within the various teams his footballing journey took him.

Life after Chelsea

Joe Cole celebrates a goal with Lille teammates in September 2011
Photo by Thomas pictures / Jean Paul Thomas / Icon Sport via Getty Images

Joe Cole’s footballing career after Chelsea was fraught with injuries which impacted his form and performance on the pitch. He was never really able to find the same magic and success he had at Chelsea.

He signed for Liverpool on a free transfer for the 2010-11 season. A ragtag crew of Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, and Brendan Rodgers were unable to find the best out of Cole. However, in 2011-12 he was loaned out to Lille in Ligue 1, a year after they won the league. It was here that Cole may have made the biggest impact for Chelsea.

At Lille, Cole finally lived up to his true potential excelling in a central free role. Playing alongside emerging talents like Eden Hazard, Dmitri Payet, Lucas Digne, and Gana Gueye, Cole was able to express himself without restrictions to great results. More importantly (to Chelsea’s benefit) was his relationship with Hazard. Without Cole’s journey abroad (and our epic comeback in Munich) we may live in a timeline where Hazard never wore Chelsea blue.

”It was at the time when we were playing together at Lille, when ​Manchester United and ​Manchester City were courting him. Every big team wanted him.

“We had some chats about his future, and I just asked him if he’d thought about Chelsea, and he intimated that they were interested. I said ‘I think it’s for you.’ I explained that he’d settle in well in London, and I said ‘if you get a bit homesick, you can just jump on the train, and you’re back in Brussels in five minutes.’ I think it all played into his decision, and he fell in love with the club and he fell in love with London. I think his family is very settled, and it’s worked out for him.”

-Joe Cole; source: BT Sport

In January 2013, Cole re-signed with his boyhood club for his second stint with West Ham. It was a move that should have delighted the romantics, however it did not pan out in the end. He was more of a depth signing and saw most of his appearances off the bench. Again a victim of circumstance, he would not feature in a role best suited to his play-style under Sam Allardyce. By the end of the following season, he was off to a new club.

In June 2014, he signed on a free with Aston Villa. He featured even less for the Birmingham club and was eventually loaned to Coventry City in League One the following season, where he rediscovered his love of the game, which he had lost amid the disappointments of the previous few seasons.

In May 2016, Cole took his talents to South Beach made it across the pond to join one of America’s oldest teams, the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL, in the second tier of the US pyramid. His move to North America came at a time when a lot of his former Chelsea teammates had also made the jump. Cole was unable to add further silverware to his trophy cabinet, but he was able to further his coaching endeavors. He completed his UEFA A license (source) and became the Rowdies’ assistant manager in his second year. He even became a vegetarian.

Life after retirement

Paulo Ferreira and Joe Cole take in a UEFA Youth League match at Cobham
Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Joe Cole called time on his playing career this past November. He’s currently employed as a coach in the Chelsea academy for the remainder of this season. Next season, he’s likely to specialize in one of the club’s academy teams.

“Looking to the future, I want to stay involved in the game. I feel I can offer a lot as a coach and have really enjoyed the opportunity to undertake some of these duties with the Rowdies. To lend my experience to help other young footballers achieve their dreams, just like I did, is a big passion of mine.”

-Joe Cole, source: Telegraph

Off the pitch, Cole has popped up as a television pundit with increasing frequency, even appearing just a few days ago on ITV for the European qualifiers between England and Montenegro.

It’s always refreshing to see and hear pundits speak kindly of Chelsea, and Cole has been a vocal advocate for us thus far. We hope to see more him!

In other news, Cole is kayaking across the English Channel for charity, partnering with a Richard House Children’s Hospice. Cole crossed the English Channel in 2011 to play with Lille, so this adventure should be a piece of cake. If you’d like read more about Cole’s efforts to raise money for charity or to make a donation yourself, please check out his charity page.

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