ONE OF THE BEST
Chelsea take on the Hammers at Upton Park later today, and with Cole in line to make his first appearance against the Blues since leaving the club, Terry and Hazard have been recounting their memories of the former England international.
John Terry played alongside Cole at Stamford Bridge for seven seasons, a period in which the club lifted the Barclays Premier League on three occasions, three FA Cups and two League Cups.
The Chelsea captain was also a team-mate of Cole's at international level, and knows exactly what he is capable of.
'He brings flair and a lot of natural ability to any team he plays in,' Terry tells the official Chelsea website. 'I don't think England have produced a player like Joe for many years now. I obviously knew he was a good player when he was at West Ham, but when he came here and I saw him day in, day out, the things he could do with a ball were very special and it was a real pleasure to play with him.
'He was a massive Chelsea fan as a kid and he created some brilliant memories while he was a player here. This game will be the first time he's come up against us since leaving, if he's involved, so it will be good to see him and catch up.
'It's great to see him back playing because he had a few injuries which stopped him slightly, but when he's on top form he's as good as anyone.'
Terry went on to praise Cole's impact during the 2004/05 season, when we lifted the Premier League title for the first time in 50 years.
'He was really important because he scored a lot of crucial goals for us at the time,' he explains. 'The one away at Liverpool stands out and he got a few more as well, but it wasn't just his goals, it was his assists as well.
'Joe's a confidence player and when he came into the side there was a lot of competition, but he grew and grew with each game, and once he realised the fans loved him and had taken to him, we saw the best of him on a regular basis.'
Cole was outstanding the following campaign as we recorded back-to-back title triumphs, and went on to win the club's Player of the Year award in 2008.
During his time as a Chelsea player, he scored some wonderful goals, including important strikes at Anfield, White Hart Lane, Highbury and Old Trafford.
Asked to pick out his favourite Cole goal, however, Terry plumps for a brilliant solo effort.
'He scored against all the big teams during his time here, but I would have to say the pick of the bunch was the one against Manchester United when we beat them 3-0 to clinch the title in 2006,' he says.
'He jinked in and out of Rio [Ferdinand], [Nemanja] Vidic and [Mikael] Silvestre and then scored with a great finish. To do that in such a big game is one thing but to do it against world class defenders was special. It was a brilliant way to round off his season, we'd been in great form individually and collectively and that was a great way to end it.'
Having initially moved to Stamford Bridge from West Ham in the summer of 2003, Cole returned to east London last season following a disappointing spell at Liverpool, which saw him spend a season on loan at Lille in France.
'He's been to a couple of clubs since leaving Chelsea and I think it's important for him now to play regularly and show everybody he's still at the top level,' says Terry.
'He can still be involved in the England set-up once he gets back to playing regularly. We've seen glimpses of that, hopefully his injury problems are behind him now and he can maintain his form and stay in the West Ham side.
'I'm still in touch with Coley and speak to him. I'm looking forward to seeing him; we had a good relationship when he was here and I know many of the boys keep in touch with him as well.'
Cole's spell at Lille coincided with Eden Hazard's final season at the club before he signed for the Blues. Our Belgian winger was just as effusive as Terry in his praise for Cole, highlighting both the impact he had on him during the time they spent together in France, and the role our former number 10 played in helping Hazard choose his next destination.
'I am so happy to see him because he's my friend,' Hazard said. 'When we played together in Lille, I learned a lot from him because he has experience, he has won many titles and he is a very good player.
'I was like a baby when I heard Joe Cole had signed for Lille. For me he was one of the best number 10s in the world. It was a pleasure to play with a player like this.
'I spoke to him before I signed for Chelsea. Every day, seriously, he was telling me that Chelsea was the best club for me. He said Chelsea was a big club where you can win trophies every season. For that reason I signed, so thank you Joe Cole!'
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