Cole comes home

West Ham United are delighted to welcome Joe Cole home after the England midfielder completed his move back to the Boleyn Ground.

The Academy of Football graduate has returned to east London after leaving Liverpool and signing an 18-month contract with the Hammers.

Capped 56 times by England, Cole will wear the same No26 shirt he donned during his first spell at the club between 1998 and 2003, when his mesmeric play helped West Ham win the FA Youth Cup in 1999 and the midfielder himself be crowned Hammer of the Year in 2003.

Now, Cole is determined to write an equally memorable second chapter to his West Ham career under manager Sam Allardyce.

"It is a great move for me," confirmed the 31-year-old. "Coming back here brings back all the memories of the pitches I learnt how to play on. This is where I learnt my trade and I'm happy to have another chance to be here. I've always loved West Ham and I hope I can give the club a few memorable seasons.

"The timing was right for me to come back and I'm happy. I'm back in London and I'm delighted to be here. I want to be here and I want to make an impact.

"The place has not changed much to look at, but I think Sam has done a great job with the team. A few years ago, the club was in a bad way and Sam has done brilliantly. All in all, it will always be West Ham and the history will always be here and everywhere I go around the world, people love West Ham. Everywhere I go, people know me for having started here."

Cole is looking forward to working under Big Sam - a manager he believes has instilled a confidence in the club and assembled a squad that West Ham supporters can be proud of.

"Sam didn't have to sell me the club for me to come back. For me, I have had 18 months at Liverpool where I haven't played much football and Sam wants to play me. I'm going to need games to get back to my best, but I want to play football and come here and help the team to make an impact.

"I could see from the outside what a great bunch of lads we have here and there is a great spirit. I'm excited."

Cole played in an exceptionally-talented West Ham team during his first spell at the Boleyn Ground, alongside the likes of Paolo Di Canio, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Jermain Defoe and Trevor Sinclair.

On his return, the No26 says the Hammers have a similarly strong squad, especially considering the club has only returned to the Barclays Premier League this season.

"The first season in the Premier League is always the toughest one and the boys have done brilliant to get 26 points on the board. We would like to match that in the second half of the season and crack on from there.

"We have got a lot of England internationals and a good strong squad here, so our home form is going to be vital."

Tony Carr and Joe Cole

Academy Director Tony Carr MBE with star graduate Joe Cole

Cole has already impressed once at the Boleyn Ground this season, scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win back on 8 December. Despite breaking the hearts of the Claret and Blue Army, the midfielder received his customary warm welcome from the fans who have always adored him.

"It was a big thing in me coming back - the fact that everybody here wants me to do well. The fans have always been great for me, whenever I have been back and also when I've been in the area visiting family.

"I feel like I owe the club a little bit as well because if it wasn't for West Ham I wouldn't be a footballer. This club's great youth-team coaches taught me the trade."

While Cole may not have appeared too frequently for the Reds this season, he made 42 appearances and scored nine goals for French side Lille last season, including six in the UEFA Champions League.

"We were a Champions League team and finished third in the league and it was a good technical league with a lot of great players. I played 40-odd games and enjoyed it. It was only during my time at Liverpool that I didn't play as much as I'd have liked.

"That happens, but now I've moved on and hopefully I'll have a great time here."

Cole will hope that 'great time' begins with a second memorable FA Cup triumph over Manchester United. He was just 19 when West Ham scored a shock 1-0 fourth-round win at Old Trafford in January 2001 courtesy of Di Canio's unforgettable winner.

"We can do it again. It's a different team and a different era but at the end of the day I've come here to play football, I love playing football, and what better way to do it than against Manchester United at home.

"I'm just going to go out there, like I've always done, and give it my all and we have enough quality experienced players here to do something special."