Having won six major trophies during a seven-year playing career with the Blues Joe Cole, who announced his retirement in November, has recently taken up a coaching role in the club’s Academy, and he could not be happier.
As technical Academy coach, over the next six months the 37-year-old will work with a selection of age groups, including the Under-18s and development squad, as he aims to impart some of the knowledge he has built up over the course of a glittering career in the game to our young players.
Shortly after starting his new role, Cole sat down with the official Chelsea website to discuss returning to the club in a coaching capacity and the qualities he can bring to the job, as well as some of the key lessons he learned as a youngster starting out in the game...
Joe Cole has now come full circle.
A Chelsea supporter as a child, in 2003 he was given the opportunity to represent his boyhood club when he made the switch across London from West Ham United.
Cole would go on to become an important part of the team which won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, as well as four more major trophies, and establish himself as a fans’ favourite.
Now, in his new coaching role, he is given the task of developing players who will hopefully go on to follow a similar path to the one he experienced at the club.
‘I’m very pleased, it’s exciting,’ Cole says. ‘So much of the world now is very individual and football clubs give people the chance to be part of something. I’ve been part of that for a long time, in different capacities, so it’s exciting to be part of something again and I want to help the club get back to the top of world football.’
A number of Cole’s former Chelsea team-mates have now turned their hand to coaching, with Frank Lampard in charge at Derby County and John Terry working as assistant to Dean Smith at Aston Villa. Scott Parker, meanwhile, is in a similar role at Fulham.
So, what attributes does Cole, who spent some time in the Academy last season, believe he can bring to the role?
‘Obviously the knowledge and experience, 20 years of wisdom as a player, so there’s that,’ he says.
‘I think having had the career I’ve had helps the young players identify with you because you’ve trodden the road they want to go down, so they easily engage with you.
‘They want to learn and that’s my advantage, but I’ll have to make sure I’m very clever with what I say to them to get the message across. Just because they will listen to me, I need to make sure the message is clear about what’s required to become a Chelsea player.
‘You want to be with quality people. The people we have here are quality. I feel I can add to that and we can develop these lads.’
Cole goes on to detail the specifics of his role, and the way in which his impact has already been felt on the Cobham training pitch.
‘For the first six weeks I’ll be assisting Jon Harley with the Under-18s because Andy Myers has hurt himself, so I’ll be assistant coach,’ he explains.
‘But it’s a bit more free-flowing. I’ve already taken part of a session, which was my own, a variant of what I saw. So there will be that, and then I might take the team for a few days myself, or maybe a week. I’ll do a team talk, a bit of scouting, recruitment and helping out, so the role encompasses everything. It gives me an opportunity to see the club from all different angles.
‘I was player-coach at Tampa Bay Rowdies for six months and I’ve done my badges, so I’ve coached at various academies, but the session I put on seemed to go well and the lads enjoyed it.’
Cole is the latest in a long line of former Chelsea players to coach in our Academy, following the likes of Myers, Harley, Tore Andre Flo and Jody Morris, who departed last summer to join Lampard’s backroom team at Derby.
Neil Bath, the club's head of youth development, makes a conscious effort to ensure some of those figures who have represented the club at the highest level are brought into the Academy in a coaching capacity, using their knowledge of the game to help develop players, while also being fully aware of exactly what is required to emerge through the ranks and eventually play for the Chelsea men's first team.
‘I think that’s massive,’ Cole says. ‘This club has got massive history and it’s been growing exponentially over the last few years, so we always need that connection with the past and we always need to know about the values and philosophies which help you become a Chelsea player.
‘Every club has a unique image and Chelsea has. It’s the older players that can help pass it down to the younger players. There are certain standards which need to be kept in order to be here.
‘It’s a great place to come and work. I like being in and around the building, and with great people. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind and the club have been great with me. One of the things that might be a little bit untapped is the younger players and their connection to the past, what the standards are and what it means to be a Chelsea player. That’s vital, you need that mentality at the club.’
There is little doubt Cole’s own experiences as a youngster, when he was widely regarded as one of the brightest talents in the country, will stand him in good stead for his new role, and he spoke about some of the most important lessons he learned while growing up in the game.
‘A lot of the lessons we learnt were when you got thrown in with the first team and you noticed the pace of the game,’ he recalls. ‘Every level you went up, the pace of the game got quicker and quicker and you had to sink or swim.
‘The first time someone runs past you, kicks you, steps over you or shouts at you, that’s a big one when you play men’s football, or the first time somebody in the crowd abuses you. I can remember playing and there was a grown man who was old enough to be my dad abusing me. His face was contorted and you’re shocked, I think that can swallow players up and you don’t know how they are going to react, so that was probably the biggest lesson I learnt.’
It’s those experiences, and others, which ensure Cole is ideally placed to move into the coaching world.
‘That’s my biggest source of information now, my own career, so that’s where I’ll be reaching to pull something out of the bag,’ he says.
‘I think anyone can put a session on, the secret and the beauty is how you deliver it, and do you say the right thing, at the right time and to the right person?’
Given his achievements at the club, the Chelsea fans will undoubtedly be backing Cole to get it right.