Joe Cole may have played his last game for Chelsea in 2010 but he retains a special place in the hearts of Blues fans who have fond memories of the mercurial midfielder’s time at Stamford Bridge.
The 37-year-old, who announced his retirement earlier this week, started his career at West Ham and played at five clubs in England, France and the United States after his departure from the Bridge eight years ago.
However, Chelsea supporters still regard him as one of ours for the following reasons:
His battling spirit
While there was little doubt of his footballing ability, there were questions of how Cole would fare amidst the strong competition for places at Chelsea when he arrived in 2003. However, he rose to the challenge and made a big contribution as we won the Premier League in 2004/05.
A goal in our 3-1 win at Norwich City that season summed up his determination to succeed as he bounced back to his feet after a tackle from behind by a Norwich defender, won a 50-50 challenge and then slammed a rising shot past Robert Green from the edge of the box with his weaker left foot.
Striking down the Devils (twice)
Of the 39 goals which Cole scored in 282 games for Chelsea, few are as well remembered as his magical strike against Manchester United in April 2006 as he twisted and turned past three defenders before firing past Edwin van der Sar to virtually seal our second straight Premier League crown.
Four years later, he got another big strike against United when he met Florent Malouda’s cross with a clever back heel that sent the ball between Patrice Evra’s legs and into the net. It was his final goal for the Blues and proved crucial as we won 2-1 to leap-frog United into top spot in a close title race.
Setting them up
After a disappointing 1-1 draw against unfancied Rosenborg at the Bridge, Chelsea’s Champions League prospects in the 2007/08 season looked bleak when we fell a goal behind early on at Valencia in our second game.
However, Cole inspired a fine comeback, netting the equaliser before brilliantly setting up the winner from inside his own half with a brilliant through ball with the outside of his right foot which sent Didier Drogba clear to score. It kick-started a memorable Champions League campaign which culminated in our first appearance in the final.
Eden Hazard was much sought-after in the summer of 2012 with the Premier League’s top clubs jostling to sign him from French side Lille. As things turned out, Chelsea had a key advantage in the race to get the talented Belgian as Cole, on loan at Lille, put in a good word for his former club.
Said Hazard of his former team-mate: ‘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!'
We, not they
It was pretty clear that Cole was still very much a Blue when he was interviewed after our dramatic victory against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals in April 2014.
Asked about PSG’s inability to defend their lead, he replied: ‘Obviously when we started to get the ball into the box, they’re not used to that.’
And then while talking about Chelsea’s crucial late winner: ‘We, uh, they just found a way and that’s what good teams do.’
It may have been a slip of the tongue but the implication was clear: Joey Cole – once a Blue, always a Blue.