When Joe Cole arrived back at West Ham United in January 2013 the majority of the fans were delighted to see a club favourite return. But was his capture on a free transfer a gamble from Sam Allardyce, given his injury ravaged career?
He certainly made an excellent first impression on his debut as Big Sam included him in his starting line-up for the FA Cup third round tie with Manchester United the day after he signed for a second time. He set up both goals for James Collins, as the Hammers came back from a goal down to be ahead in the match, only to concede a stoppage time equaliser.
Since then his time at the club has taken a turn for the worse. He sustained an injury in the Capital One Cup tie at home to Cheltenham Town back in August and hasn’t really featured regularly since. As we all know, he has had an injury ravaged career and sadly he is likely to remain this way until he finally hangs his boots up.
This latest injury disappointed none more than the fans who had seen Cole trudge off a football pitch many a time before. Seeing a key midfielder, who had only featured a small number of times since he made the return to East London, come off again may have influenced their opinion about the club giving him another chance with them.
With Cole appearing to recover from his injuries, however, it may seem as though Big Sam did not want to disrupt the momentum the team had built after winning their previous two games. He may have felt that Cole wasn’t fit enough to make a positive impact. Given that the team were on a winning streak Cole had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.
In the winning run that has seen them take the maximum 12 points in February, Allardyce has named a midfield including Captain Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, Matthew Taylor, Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing. Even in the 1-0 defeat to Everton last time out, the manager kept his faith in the team to see if they could make it five on the bounce, leaving players such as Cole out of favour.
Matthew Taylor, in particular, springs to mind as one that deserves special praise for his performances in recent weeks. He has had to cover in all areas of the pitch due to the clubs injury problem before Christmas and, now that the can go back to being a regular fixture in midfield, players such as Cole are finding it difficult to get in the side.
Cole does have a future at the club, but he will have to get more game time and prove he means business in the coming few months. Given that West Ham said that he had been working hard throughout the summer to improve his fitness levels it hasn’t really appeared to work out for him on a number of levels this season.
To seal his place in the first team permanently, Cole will have to prove himself more than simply worthy; he will have to exceed expectations.