Joe Cole in Prague

Joe Cole: I’m really looking forward to this Sunday’s match!

Former West Ham United and Chelsea favourite Joe Cole will be a very interested observer when two of his old clubs square-off at London Stadium on Sunday.

Both sides will seeking to build on opening-day 1-1 draws, with the Irons securing a point on the road at AFC Bournemouth and the Blues coming from a goal down to hold Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

While West Ham have brought in two experienced midfielders in Edson Álvarez and James Ward-Prowse this summer following their UEFA Europa Conference League triumph, Chelsea have continued their extensive rebuild by appointing a new head coach in Mauricio Pochettino and spending an estimated £285million on seven new singings, including new British record transfer Moisés Caicedo from Brighton & Hove Albion.

I loved my time at both clubs and these encounters were always real blood and thunder affairs.
Joe Cole

For Cole, who follows both clubs closely in his role as a media pundit, Sunday’s derby will be a fascinating barometer of where each is at in the early part of the 2023/24 campaign.

“I’m really looking forward to this Sunday’s match and I’m sure that both sets of fans are, too,” enthused the 56-cap former England international, who experienced both sides of the derby as a player. “As a player, you can’t wait to play your first game of the season in front of your own supporters and you can’t get better than starting-off with a London derby at home.

“I loved my time at both clubs and these encounters were always real blood and thunder affairs, whether I was wearing the Claret and Blue jersey of West Ham United or a Chelsea shirt. Many of my mates are Hammers supporters, others are Blues fans, and some follow other London clubs but, regardless, they all want to see their team win a local derby and earn the bragging rights.”

Joe Cole playing against Chelsea

Cole captained West Ham to two Paolo Di Canio-inspired wins over Chelsea in 2002/03, highs in a season that ended in the lowest of lows of relegation from the Premier League.

Two decades on, the 41-year-old is hoping neither of his former clubs find themselves in difficulty this season, and is relishing the prospect of a whole-hearted capital clash this weekend.

“As a West Ham player, we won at both Stamford Bridge (3-2) and the Boleyn Ground (1-0) that season and when you come out on top in hard-fought matches like those, you really do know what results like that mean for everyone connected with your Football Club,” he recalled.

“And you always want to make sure that your team-mates also realise just how important it is to get one over on your local rivals, whether it’s a London, Merseyside or Midlands derby. The same applies the world over and, even when I was in northern France, my team-mates at Lille were telling my how crucial it was to beat Lens and Valenciennes in our Derbies du Nord.

“Wherever you are, you get a feel that these matches are just that little bit extra-special for both the players and the supporters and, on Sunday afternoon, things won’t be any different between West Ham and Chelsea but please don’t ask me to make any score predictions!”


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