Clean slate for Cole on Hammers return
Published 05/01/2013 | 09:25
Joe Cole will never forget cleaning the toilet floors ahead of his first West Ham debut - and intends to make the most of a second chance at Upton Park.
The 31-year-old returned to his boyhood club after moving on a free transfer from Liverpool, and looks set to go straight into the squad for the FA Cup third-round tie against Manchester United.
The midfielder, capped 56 times by England, got his introduction to first-team football with the Hammers back in January 1999, in an FA Cup tie against Swansea at Upton Park. "I can remember I was cleaning the changing room floors when big Frank (Lampard senior) came in and said to me 'You got a suit son? You're in the squad tomorrow'," Cole said.
He went on: "I had to finish cleaning the floors, finish cleaning the khazi floors too, then got myself home and drove to the ground four hours early as I was really nervous.
"I came on when we were 1-0 down and Julian Dicks scored the goal that took us to a replay, then bang, you are there - gone from being a schoolboy to being a pro footballer."
Cole emerged from West Ham's academy to sign professional terms in 1998, becoming a firm fans' favourite before leaving for Chelsea in 2003 after the east London club were relegated from the Premier League.
Had things turned out differently Cole could have moved to Manchester United, having turned down an invitation to join the first-team squad at Wembley for the 1996 FA Cup final.
"(United manager) Sir Alex Ferguson did want to sign me as a young kid, but I had made my decision to come here as all my pals were here and I was very comfortable here as a youngster," Cole recalled.
"They asked me to go the (FA) Cup final with them, but it wouldn't have been right going along and taking in all the razzmatazz of the day.
"It would have been lovely for a young kid, I was only 13 at the time, to go the cup final with them, but it wouldn't have been right because I knew I was going to sign for West Ham, so we said no because I didn't want to lead anyone on."