Over the years us West Ham fans have been treated to many cult heroes, but none quite like Carlton Cole. Today we ask just where is the former England star now?
Carlton George Cole began his career as a youngster on the books of Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea, making his debut as a substitute to club legend Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in April 2002. Cole impressed in this career-starting time and Ranieri described the young starlet as “The best young player I have ever worked with”. However, despite The Englishman’s positive start, a series of long unsuccessful loans would see Cole facing an exit from The Blues in the summer of 2005. Jose Mourinho sparsely used him in the 2005/2006 season and having scored eight goals in 31 appearances at Stamford Bridge, Cole made the move to Upton Park under Alan Pardew.
The first season of a long romance with Hammers fans wasn’t to be a successful one for Cole, surprisingly the future fan favourite could only manage three goals and a handful of starts as Carlos Tevez’s goal kept us up on the final day of the 2006/2007 season. The summer of 2007 was to be a time of great recruitment as Alan Curbishley looked to rebuild after a torrid season. However, the start of the 2007/2008 campaign was to be fraught with injuries and Cole would have the chance to instigate himself as a key member of the first team. Having repaid Curbishley’s faith in him, Cole ended the transitional season with six goals and making nine league assists. The future England international was rewarded at the start of the 2008/2009 season with a new bumper five-year deal and he was not to disappoint. That season will forever be remembered as one of the former Chelsea man’s best, as 12 goals in all competitions earned him a first England call-up by Fabio Capello. Despite a short-lived England career, Cole holds the record of the most Three Lions appearances from the bench without making a start. No matter what happened in the next few years of his career, Carlton had already etched his name in West Ham folklore forever with his unmistakable style.
The season of 2010/2011 would go on to be a dreadful campaign for everyone affiliated with West Ham United, as we were relegated to The Championship under Avram Grant. Cole, suffered greatly on the pitch during the period in only managing to register five Premier League goals in the dismal season. Interest from several clubs from different countries prompted Cole to publicly dedicate himself to our push to gain promotion back to The Premier League in summer 2011. It would prove to be a good call, as the former England international rolled back the years with 14 league goals in a successful promotion bid. Cole also managed a key goal in the Play-Off final as we overcame Blackpool 2-1 at Wembley. The following season would see his powers fade and the former Blues man could only manage two league goals, as the club settled back into Premier League life. At the end of the 2012/2013 season Cole was released after an up and down seven-year spell in East London. What happened next would amuse and bemuse most of the football world.
In October 2013, we were plunged into a striker crisis after a barren transfer window on the attacking front, there was to be only one man for the job. It was soon announced that Carlton Cole had signed a short-term contract with the club. Cole’s six vital league goals helped us to stay up in a shaky season under Sam Allardyce. New signings Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho mainly kept Cole out of the first team the next season, as Allardyce managed to stumble from fourth at Christmas to a final 12th placed Premier League finish. Carlton Cole’s last goal for the club would come in the thrilling penalties win over Everton in an FA Cup third round replay. However, the former Charlton man made the headlines most in that season for an altercation with a Tottenham fan on Twitter. Cole was fined a hefty sum by the FA, but the obscene language used on a rival fan by Cole would further assure his place in West Ham folklore.
After a few months of training in Scotland, Cole finally signed on a short contract for former European giants and Scottish Premier League side Celtic. The former Wolves man’s only Celtic goal, and latest goal in professional football to date, was an amusingly scrappy strike in an away victory against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The spell would only last eight months and in August 2016 Cole sought a new challenge at American side Sacramento Republic. If the spell in Scotland seemed short, then this new horizon would prove to be even shorter lasting just four appearances. Instead of retiring after the disappointing spells, Cole has now hooked up with former Chelsea teammate Michael Essien at Indonesian side Persib Bandung.
As the twilight years of Carlton Cole’s career continue to stretch out, many a West Ham fan can’t help being reminded of the bizarre, eventful and purely brilliant memories that assured Carlton Cole’s name will forever stay on the fruitful list of West Ham United cult heroes.