Joe Cole Burns His Bridges
When Joe Cole called Liverpool the "biggest club in the country" and spoke in glowing terms about the atmosphere at Anfield, he simultaneously delivered slaps to the faces of the Chelsea fans who had worshipped him for seven years and burned any bridges that led back to SW6.
Wherever Cole ended up, it was going to hurt Chelsea fans.
Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, and Liverpool are all hated by Blues' supporters, the latter two much more so.
Some may think seeing him run out in the red of Liverpool is better than watching him play for Tottenham.
Footballers are professionals first and foremost. It would be both hopelessly romantic and unrealistic to expect players to make their career decisions based on who their team's rivals are.
But Cole’s comments upon completing the transfer have incensed many Chelsea fans, and it isn’t hard to see why.
Before examining them in more detail, it is worth recapping what Cole said:
"I know I have made the right decision and I am looking forward to the challenge.
"This is a challenge for me. I have played in London all my life. I could have stayed at Chelsea because the fans loved me and I won things, but I wanted to challenge myself and when I knew Liverpool were interested it was a no-brainer because they are the biggest club in the country.
"This is a massive club. I tried to take everything out of the equation, take the financial and location side out and just thought in football terms.
"I thought about the semi-final of the Champions League in 2005 when I ran onto the field and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I was thinking about playing in that atmosphere every week and that swung it for me.
"That's the thing I am looking forward to. You talk to Liverpool players and talk about the European nights. I experienced it as an opponent and it was immense. To go out there and play in that atmosphere every week will be phenomenal."
Firstly, there is no expression of thanks to the fans that sung his name and identified with him. Chelsea fans stuck with him through the numerous highs and lows he experienced in West London.
There was the period early on in his Chelsea career when he couldn’t get on the team under Jose Mourinho. Cole was criticised for exhibiting his repertoire of tricks and for lacking an end product.
Then came the time he was out of action for a year with an injury. As he struggled for form and match action upon his return, you would still hear his chant rise up from the Matthew Harding and spread across the ground.
His description of Liverpool as "the biggest club in the country" will also raise a few eyebrows and blood pressure levels. Yes, they have a glorious history, and they like letting us all know about it.
However, with each year that passes without a league title, the fabric of that claim begins to tear.
Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League last season, and their last trophy was four years ago. Being the biggest club in the country isn’t solely about the glories contained in the past. It’s also about what’s going on in the here and now.
Manchester United have, in the words of their manager Sir Alex Ferguson, knocked Liverpool "off their perch."
Liverpool have work to do before they can justifiably once again lay claim to the title of the biggest club in England.
Also, Cole’s description of the Anfield atmosphere as "phenomenal" shows he has gullibly accepted the myth repeated ad nauseum by the media in this country about the noise levels at Anfield.
He seems to have forgotten that the last time he visited the ground for one of those European nights, Chelsea fans taunted their rivals with numerous renditions of “Where’s your famous atmosphere?”
The commentators on ITV even commented on how quiet Anfield was, which is akin to treason for them.
When I went up to Liverpool for the Champions League semifinal in 2007, "You’ll Never Walk Alone" was sung very loudly.
But then it would be with the help of the stadium’s sound system.
Stamford Bridge can get pretty noisy on European nights as well, Joe.
I remember vividly seeing the Matthew Harding stands physically shake when Chelsea beat Liverpool in the competition two years ago.
Other clubs have histories and raucous atmospheres. They are not the exclusive preserve of one football club.
Of course, Cole may merely be telling Liverpool fans what they want to hear, as a lot of players do when they join a club.
You are hardly likely to hear a player declare upon joining a new team: “It was the only offer on the table, so I had to accept it really. The money’s not bad, so I can’t complain too much.”
But Cole isn’t just any player moving to any club.
He says he grew up a Chelsea fan and stood on the Shed as a youngster.
Chelsea and Liverpool are not historic rivals, but the animosity between them has hit new heights because of their numerous Champions League encounters.
As a Chelsea fan he should know full well what the effects of such comments will be.
Some will give him the benefit of the doubt and prefer to remember the dazzling tricks and crucial goals.
Others won’t be so forgiving.
Don’t be surprised to hear boos when he returns to SW6 in February.
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