On the 22nd May of this year, it was announced that Carlton Cole would be released by West Ham in the summer. The striker reacted by tweeting “life is filled with ups and downs – today is a down, but I’ll be back” – a conventional footballer response to being released – not a claim that Cole expected to be at West Ham, let alone 5 months later.
With Andy Carroll scuppering to another injury that will rule him out for the foreseeable future and lack of replacement brought in the summer, the striker position has caused Sam Allardyce a few headaches. Despite scoring against Tottenham Ricardo Vaz Te has been out of favour, while Modibo Maiga and Mladen Petric have yet to score this season. This has forced the West Ham manager to re-sign Cole, who was still a free agent despite interest from abroad.
The returning striker had scored 33 goals in 167 Premier League games for West Ham, in addition to 15 goals in the Championship a couple of years ago. In West Ham’s return to the Premier League last year, Cole only managed to score 2 goals in all competitions as West Ham averaged 0.93 goals per game with the striker compared to 1.33 goals per game without him.
Carlton Cole’s best seasons for West Ham came in 2009 and 2010, where 10 goals in both seasons earned him a call up to the senior England squad. The former Chelsea striker has also played a crucial part in West Ham’s ventures forward in the past, assisting 15 goals in the Premier League and creating 108 chances in 4 seasons.
Whilst Cole’s goal record in the Premier League is nothing to boast about, his presence has been missed at Upton Park this season. As noted in last month’s piece about the effect of Andy Carroll’s absence, the system utilised by Sam Allardyce is best suited to a striker with a high work ethic and physical presence, without Cole West Ham haven’t had a suitable back up for Carroll and subsequently suffered.
A poor season last year though cost Cole, who had the lowest win ratio (19%) of any West Ham player, and he wasn’t offered a new contract. The return of Cole will be seen as desperation by Allardyce by some, but bringing him back on a 3 month contract could be a good short term move. West Ham may have scored 3 against Tottenham, but before scoring – and forcing Tottenham to attack – they were relying on set pieces to threaten the opposition goal and a total of 4 goals had been scored before that game. The Hammers lacked a forward willing to run the channels and torment defenders, Maiga especially putting in some poor performances, yet Cole will be able to offer that until Carroll is fit again.
With the need to hit the ground running too, Cole being at West Ham for the last 7 years and knowing the majority of the players and staff will help the striker to settle in straight away. Come the end of the January transfer window though, West Ham fans will be hoping Allardyce brings in a proper replacement for Cole rather than hoping strikers return to their form of previous years.