Cole the Goal Machine

by James Baker

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

At the beginning of season 08-09, I think you could have had very good odds on Carlton Cole scoring 5 Premiership goals or more, becoming the fulcrum of the West Ham team and then breaking in to the England squad. 15 months is a long time ago and in that time Carlton Cole has morphed from a clumsy, well-built support striker who weighed in with the odd goal  to a feared centre forward, capable of giving the very best defenders a real working over.

If we go back to the beginning of last season, Cole started up front with Dean Ashton for the Hammers. It was assumed by most that as soon as Bellamy was fit, Cole would make way to leave Alan Curbishley with his first choice pairing of Ashton and Bellamy. The sad demise of Ashton and his unreliable body is well documented and a hugely promising player seems destined to never fulfill the undoubted potential he has. The end of Ashton’s season after 4 games last year and Bellamy’s long list of injuries made Cole the leader of the attack. He was much derided by the home crowd. I remember having to listen to the morons who sat behind me moaning about everything he did and abusing him every chance they got. He really was a figure of fun to many at the Boleyn.

He stands around 6 foot 3” and is a perfect specimen of a modern day football player. He was always good at holding up the ball and trying to bring players in to attacks. However, his first touch was not always the best and some of his distribution left a lot to be desired. Many of his goals were met with ironic cheers by some of the fans. He has always had the attributes but maybe not the belief to go to the top. Lot’s of managers have seen the potential in Cole. Claudio Ranieri brought him in to the first team at Chelsea before the Russian millions came along. Indeed, Ranieri claimed he was the best young player he had ever worked with. Cole was frozen out when the blue side of London started purchasing the best players in the world. He had loan spells at Wolves, Charlton and Aston Villa and never set the world alight at these clubs. He then found his way to West Ham when Alan Pardew splashed out on the big striker. It wasn’t until last year that Cole began to flourish.

By the turn of the year, Cole had started to believe more and more in himself. He grew in to the leader of the attack. Bellamy and Cole had a very brief period when they looked unstoppable. Unfortunately, Manchester City came calling and Bellamy was off. Cole was then paired with the diminutive Davide Di Michele. Not a great finisher but a very intelligent user of space and a player who made very clever runs which freed Cole up to move in to some of the vacant spaces and he came in to his own. He scored 12 goals last season, still quite a moderate return but a massive improvement. He was rewarded with a call up for Don Fabio and he doesn’t seem to have looked back. Cole has already scored 5 goals this season despite playing up front on his own for every game until the Arsenal game on Sunday.

I think people have been pleasantly surprised by his performances for England and he is looking more and more at home playing for the 3 Lions. I think if he stays fit, he is a must for the squad for the World Cup. I would go as far to say that if he continues to play as he did on Sunday against Arsenal, he should be starting. Where has the improvement come from? I think Cole deserves massive credit for what he has achieved in the last year. How much influence has the Hammers management team had on Cole? I think Zola and Clarke should take huge credit for the transformation. They have managed to get Cole believing in himself and believing he belongs at the top table. I have a romantic notion that Cole is listening to the little Italian genius and learning. I really think the manager has improved the player.

Carlton Cole is now the focal point for the Hammers. I hope, with the return of Collison and Behrami to the West Ham midfield, Zola will continue to play a fellow front man with Cole in a 4-4-2. This should mean Cole can continue to exert his improving all round game on the rest of the Premiership. Will any of the big teams be looking at him? I think they would be mad not to.

Yossi Benyoun, Steven Ireland, Gary Cahill have all made massive strides over the past season or two and deserved to be recognised for this. I’m going to stick my neck on the block, though and say Carlton Cole is the most improved player in the Premiership. Obviously, I see him every week so know what he is producing. I’m sure some of you have your own answer for the Premiership’s most improved player. But I think Cole makes a very strong case. How about you?

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  • dexylongshot

    Cole for me too, the transformation since Christmas has been astonishing and all credit to Zola and Clark. Let’s hope the goals keep coming and we can get some points on the board. The return of Behrami and the excellent Collison should soon see the Hammers heading upwards to mid table.

    I like Ireland as well, he was fantastic for for City last season although the new signings are not helping him at all. I just wish he would reconsider his position with The Ireland National Team. Trappatoni has left the door open for him but he is still sulking. Come on Stephen, Trap could base the whole team around you, The Greens need you, do the right thing.

  • Darren

    All credit to Zola, cole is probably the most feared English Forward in the prem, is there anyone better at the holding the ball up? He ran the arsenal defence ragged on his own the other week. With other over rated berbatov turning up once a month and Liverpool with 1 forward who better to improve either of their teams.

    I also think capello has got to start him in our 4 remaining england games b4 the world cup, he’s heskey but with goals, he could turn out to be englands gem come June

  • Matt Quinn

    Ive been nothing but impressed with Cole everytime i see him. I would have him starting for England for definite. With the obvious direct comparison with Heskey inevitable, i can only see one winner… and thats ignoring the goals Cole contributes. As a target-man, Cole has more pace, power, technique, finesse, awareness and general all round ability than Heskey.

    However, im afraid Cole with have an off-day on wednesday when the Ginger Ninja comes back to Upton Park to mark him out the game. James Collins- best defender in the league ever and my new man-crush.

  • cameron

    ofcourse their is wat about jamaine defoe now thats the best english striker in the premiership quality

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