Name: Joe Cole
Date of Birth: 08/11/1981
Height: 5′ 9″ (176cm)
Weight: 11st 7lbs (73.0kg)
Clubs: West Ham Utd
A ruptured cruciate ligament brought Joe’s 2008/09 campaign to a premature end in mid-January, in an innocuous-looking challenge at Southend.
That this FA Cup third round replay was even being played was a source of major disappointment, and the events perhaps summed up Joe’s season, which never quite got going.
It had taken just 12 minutes for Cole to make his mark on the first day of the season as he opened the scoring against Portsmouth, following it up with strikes against Bordeaux and Aston Villa as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side looked like sweeping all before them.
However a series of niggling injuries took their toll on the wide man, while results on the field also dipped, meaning he was hurried back into action when perhaps he wasn’t ready and he could not influence games in the way he knew he was able.
Cole was absent for three weeks in October and another fortnight at the end of November before the big blow struck at the start of the new year.
The campaign had been in sharp contrast to the one before, when supporters voted Joe Player of the Year, a mark of affection and appreciation for one of their own, for the top appearance maker of the campaign and for a mature player who had not lost his creative and entertaining edge.
It was a pleasing bounce-back following another frustrating year when two spells of lengthy injury ate away the months during the 2006/07 season.
He returned for the final two months and played the first-half of the Wembley 2007 FA Cup win over Man United.
The next season he began on the bench but returned as a key man as the Mourinho era ended and the Grant one began. Up against it, he scored in Valencia and played arguably the pass of the season for Didier Drogba’s strike in the same match. It kicked off a 16-game unbeaten run that lasted through to December and Joe didn’t look back.
Influencing games like two seasons earlier, Joe scored important winners against West Ham and Blackburn, as well as a goal of stunning technique in the Carling Cup at Everton to guarantee another Wembley appearance.
In total he scored 10 in 45+10 appearances, passing 200 games for the club as he played more than anyone.
The injury problems of 2006/07 had begun in pre-season, just weeks after Joe had been one of Chelsea’s four players in England’s 2006 World Cup squad, scoring the side’s best goal of the tournament in an otherwise lacklustre team display.
Joe had turned his long-admired potential into genuine achievement during the previous two seasons at Chelsea. Regularly played on the left or right of an attacking three, he weighed in with crucial goals and assists.
A born Londoner, Joe watched Chelsea from the stands as a boy but it was to West Ham he went as a junior where the spotlight found him at a ridiculously early age.
This was due in part to his showings for England Youth but also had much to do with a reported interest from Alex Ferguson.
However Joe remained at Upton Park where his much awaited first team career began gently before it was halted altogether by a broken leg.
On his return he progressed steadily to become a club regular and an occasional face for England.
A determined attitude won him the West Ham captaincy in the 2002/03 season but his spirit was not enough to prevent relegation – making a transfer away inevitable for the good of his career and for the Hammers’ finances. Chelsea paid £6.6 million.
His first season here, under the management of Claudio Ranieri, included a run of games out wide – but it remained unclear where Joe’s best position was or how his ball skills could be used to dangerous effect within the team’s overall shape.
After a year playing for José Mourinho, the answers became a lot more clear.
Joe was part of the England squad for both the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 and on his return from the latter he was given a run of games by Mourinho as part of an attacking three.
With a return to fitness of Damien Duff and Arjen Robben, his chances became more limited and mostly from the bench, but he contributed crucial, match-winning goals as Chelsea’s 2004/05 championship season grew in momentum.
A fresh opportunity presented itself when Robben was further injured and Joe grabbed it with the best form of his career.
The 2005 Carling Cup Final brought his first winners’ medal with the Premiership title then added. Mourinho had instructed and Joe had listened well.
The 2005/06 season continued with goals and more managerial praise, Joe developing into one of Chelsea’s very top performers, whether it be on the left or right-hand side.
His dazzling goal on back-to-back championship-winning day versus Man United was his favourite for the club and signed off an excellent season in the perfect way. He had played 26+8 of the 38 Premiership games, scoring eight times.
A return to pre-season training as Carlo Ancelotti arrived suggested he could be fit for the new campaign, but a setback arrived in the form of a meniscus tear just before the summer tour of America.
Having now returned to full training, it is only a matter of time before Joe is back in action. It will be a relief for a player who feels no more at home than when he has a ball at his feet.