Andrew Cole has announced today that he has retired from playing football with immediate effect and brings the curtain down on an eventful career in top flight football. Whilst the last couple of seasons have seen Cole out of the Premiership, there was no doubt that at one point he was one of the most lethal strikers in Premiership football. From 1993 until 2004, Cole scored goals for Newcastle United, Manchester United and Blackburn, winning medals galore and only surpassed in the Premiership goalscoring history by Alan Shearer and ahead of Henry, Fowler, Sheringham and Owen.
Cole first burst into my consciousness playing for Arsenal in the 1991-1992 Charity Shield hitting the cross bar with a shot that left it rattling in it’s fittings. He never really had a fair crack of the whip at the Gunners and soon saw himself signing for Bristol City for £500,000 in March 1992. His reputation then went through the roof as he hit 25 goals in 49 appearance and Kevin Keegan made him his priority signing buying him for £1.75 million a year to the day he left Arsenal. Cole’s goals were key in firing them to promotion in 1993 and his first season in the Premiership saw him score 41 goals in all competitions and win the PFA Young Player Of The Year as Newcastle finished 3rd. The season after saw Cole leave in a British record fee of £6 million to join Manchester United and he hit 12 goals in 18 games for the Red Devils including 5 in a 9-0 routing of Ipswich Town.
Cole was one of those strikers that seemed to have a knack for scoring goals and he is currently still the 2nd highest Premiership goalscorer behind Alan Shearer with 187 but it was his failure to break into the England side that divides fans about him. 1 goal in 15 appearances was certainly a poor return for a striker so lethal at League and European level. Along with Kevin Phillips, I can’t remember such a lethal striker look so ordinary at international level and he didn’t seem to be able to cut it at the very top level. He just couldn’t get going in an England shirt but he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last to fail at international level.
His personality also came under scrutiny when it was revealed that he never spoke to team mate Teddy Sheringham after he accused him of not tracking back in a league game against Bolton in 1998. For the remaining 3 seasons they spent together at United, they never conversed on or off the pitch which added to the reputation of Cole being a “difficult” player to get on with or interview and after leaving United in 2001 his career seemed to lose it’s way a little, finishing up playing for a further 8 clubs in 7 seasons. Suffice to say, an exclusive interview with Andrew Cole was not something I found myself ever getting overly excited about, in fact, I’d probably avoid it such was the lack of personality and interest that Cole generated off the football pitch.
Yet, after all that, Cole is one of the iconic early stars of the Premierships early years, times when Tottenham finished above Arsenal, QPR were a comfortable mid-table side and Joe Kinnear didn’t swear too much. I still vividly remember the day he hit those 5 against Ipswich, the 98-99 treble winning season for Manchester United with the 53 goal partnership with Dwight Yorke and the dreadful rap record he made. My favourite memory of Cole isn’t one of his goals, but the Newcastle fan who had a giant tattoo of the striker inked on to his leg two days before Newcastle sold him to Manchester United. Robert Nesbitt was his name and suffice to say, the boy was gutted. I think he had it altered to Les Ferdinand when the Geordies signed him that summer but after that I have no idea what happened to him or his tattoos.
He was never in the class of Shearer, Rush and Lineker but he consistently scored goals throughout the majority of his career and that’s all you can ask for in a striker. With Cole’s nearest rivals to overtake his 2nd place in the all time Premiership top scorers list a long way behind him, Michael Owen is the closest on 137, Andrew Cole will be around in Premiership history for a long time to come. Enjoy the retirement Mr Cole.