“My record speaks for itself and when I have finished it will all be down there in black and white for people to see.” – Andy Cole.
Andrew Alexander Cole, or Andy as he was known during his heyday in the early years of the Premier League, bowed out of professional football this week, closing the book on one of the true modern footballing greats who helped carve out the current reputations of both the English game and Manchester United as a result of his incredible playing career.
Cole’s career fizzled out on a whimper undeserving of the goal-scoring machine, having made just 11 appearances for Championship side Nottingham Forest, six of those coming from the bench, and failing to score a single goal. Sensitive to his predicament, Cole took the bold step to bite the bullet, but in doing so he focused minds back to a time when Cole was one of the most feared strikers in club football.
I say club football, as Cole never made the impact on the international stage which his talent demanded. For England Cole registered just one goal in 15 appearances, finding the net in a forgettable World Cup qualifier against Albania in 2001. At a time when Shearer and Sherringham were the main men for the Three Lions, before Michael Owen made himself undroppable for England, Cole was painted as the fall guy, a striker who needed five chances to score a goal, as Glenn Hoddle famously explained when omitting the striker from the 1998 World Cup squad.
But on reviewing the annals of Premier League history, Cole’s career burns brightly. Only Alan Shearer scored more goals (260 to Cole’s 187), and tucked away in the fine print is the stat that, despite rarely being credited for his approach play, Cole chalked up a sizable 127 career assists in the top flight. And if you exclude penalties (Shearer 56, Cole 1), Cole’s goals-per-league games ratio was actually higher than the Match of the Day pundit.
An inspection of Cole’s trophy cabinet reveals just how successful the striker, who was so-often maligned, was. The treble will always stand as the crowning achievement in a career that amassed two FA Cup winners’ medals, one League Cup medal, to add to his five Premier League titles and his 1999 Champions League triumph.
And the Andy Cole scrapbook is also bursting with amazing personal achievements. Beginning with his incredible record of 43 goals in 58 games at Newcastle, Cole netted five times in the 9-nil pounding of Ipswich that will forever live long in the memory, before creating one of the most feared partnerships in world football alongside Dwight Yorke, epitomised by that goal scored in the Nou Camp that suggested the front-two were telepathically connected.
Yet it wasn’t all good. Cole was a confidence player and, when it went, he could be absolutely awful. When the storm-clouds were found hovering overhead, Cole often retreated into a surly and stand-offish mode that failed to endear him to many in the wider footballing world. Such was the negativity sent in his direction, over time the fear is that Cole’s legacy will be forgotten, despite that fact that he was truly one of the greats of his generation.
As a tribute celebrating goal-king Cole’s fabulous career, below are some of the highlights of a glittering 19 years’ service to the beautiful game:
1. Yorke and Cole take the Nou Camp by storm (watch here)
2. Andy Cole hits five against Ipswich (watch here)