Our #50GreatestHammers countdown, in association with Official Investment Partner Basset & Gold, has reached number 30 with a player who regularly got supporters off their seats…
Years at West Ham United: 1998-2003 and 2013-14
Joe Cole is possibly the most talented player to have emerged from the Academy of Football in the last 25 years.
The precocious attacking midfielder joined West Ham United at the age of eight in 1990 and was immediately earmarked for greatness by Academy Director Tony Carr and his staff.
Skilful, quick, determined and never one to back down from a challenge, Cole was fast-tracked into the first team for his debut, aged 17 years and two months, on 2 January 1999, in an FA Cup third round tie against Swansea City.
Eight days later, the west London-born player made his Premier League debut at Manchester United and a star was born.
Summer 1999 saw Cole, alongside Michael Carrick, inspire West Ham to a record 9-0 FA Youth Cup final aggregate win over Coventry City, wowing a capacity crowd at the Boleyn Ground.
Playing alongside the likes of Paolo Di Canio, Paulo Wanchope and fellow Academy graduates Carrick and Rio Ferdinand, Cole was part of Harry Redknapp’s entertaining side at the turn of the millennium.
After enjoying a seventh-place in the Premier League in 2001/02, Cole also starred the following season, despite the team’s struggles, and was crowned Hammer of the Year before making a switch across London to Chelsea.
Internationally, Cole made his senior England debut against Mexico in May 2001 and appeared at the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals.
He later returned to the Club in January 2013 and showed that, while his legs might not have carried him quite as quickly across the east London turf, he had lost none of the technical ability and will to win which made him so popular among the Claret and Blue Army.