It is often said that England’s World Cup glory in 1966 was a triumph with east London roots. Hurst, Moore, Peters and all that.
West Ham and England will always share a connection but it is a great shame that one player in particular has evaded the radar for club and country for so long.
Joe Cole last played for his country in 2010, coming on as a second-half substitute in that chastening World Cup experience against Germany in Bloemfontein. He has been overlooked for the latest squad to face Scotland but there is some hope he could once again force his way back into contention. For a player of his calibre, three years in the international wilderness is too long.
People at all levels in the game have hopes and dreams ahead of a new campaign, and Cole will be no different to the thousands that flock to Upton Park, dreaming of a season to remember.
When West Ham supporters discuss the season ahead, talk naturally turns to whether Andy Carroll can justify his billing as the club’s most expensive player ever.
Some let their minds wander to the future and their move to the Olympic Stadium. Others talk up the progress of Ravel Morrison, who is now settling down away from Manchester United and all the unsavoury episodes that have blighted his promising career so far.
Cole is not quite football’s forgotten man, but you sense that this season could be crucial for him. Having spent 10 years away from Upton Park he rejoined the club in January this year via spells at Chelsea, Liverpool and Lille.
Having made his senior debut for West Ham at 17, Cole eventually moved to Chelsea for around £6m a decade ago and promptly won the Premier League under Jose Mourinho. Eventually though, Mourinho’s pragmatism stunted Cole’s development, stifling his attacking ability in favour of a more disciplined, defensive approach. The free spirit was in danger of becoming a workhorse.
Disaster soon struck. Cole damaged cruciate knee ligaments in January 2009 and after walking the painful road to recovery, he found himself surplus to requirements under Carlo Ancelotti.
A move to Liverpool started poorly—he was sent off on his debut—and never gained momentum before a loan at Lille allowed us glimpses of the talent he has always possessed.
Cole is back in familiar surroundings and faces a defining season. At 31, he should have reached his peak by now, but the past few years have almost been a write-off.
Cole told BBC Radio 5 Live (via Daily Mail) of his desire to wear the England shirt again, and if his actions back up his words, West Ham will benefit.
The club is eager to improve its attacking options, but if Sam Allardyce and co. look closer to home, Cole could be ready to be the creative force they so desire.
After toiling for too long, it would represent a fine success story if Cole could write a new chapter on his England career with a season that forces Roy Hodgson into selecting him once more.