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Andrew Cole tells all

last updated Saturday 19th March 2005, 11:35 AM

With his name carved into Premiership legend and his medals safely stored away, Andrew Cole has just one more mission - to show there is a smile behind the famous scowl. Throughout his career Cole has been branded a misery guts, the surliest, moodiest, grumpiest striker ever to find a Premiership net.

Fulham striker Andrew Cole
Fulham striker Andrew Cole

But the Fulham marksman, who today returns to the club where he enjoyed the greatest period of his career, insists that behind the painted scowl there's a natural-born funster.

"I'm a quiet person and everyone has got their opinions about me, but if you speak to people who work with me every day they will tell you that I banter with everyone," he said.

"When people at Fulham read about me being unhappy they just say 'what a load of rubbish. We know what he's like as a person.' It's still frustrating, though, because there is nothing I can do about it.

"When I was younger I used to get upset. I used to get down about it. But it doesn't bother me now because I have my wonderful family and they put things into perspective for me."

Cole's 172 Premiership goals put him second only to Alan Shearer in the strikers' Hall of Fame but he fears he will not get the credit his goalscoring exploits deserve until he has finally hung up his boots.

"Despite all the goals I've scored and the medals I've won, people think it is purely down to the good teams I have played in," he said.

"They think other players created the chances for me and that all I had to do was score the goals. To me that's what it looks like.

"Do you know that in all the goals I have scored there has been just one penalty? But no-one is going to give me any credit for that.

"For years it has never really bothered me because I always felt that I would get the recognition in the end. But it's never happened.

"Why do I speak out about it now? Well, I was talking to my agent this week and he reckons that people will only start saying that I got a decent amount of goals when I retire. And I think that would be a shame."

Yet despite his insistence that he's one of the lads, he cut very much an isolated figure when with Newcastle, for whom he scored an incredible 55 goals in 69 games. There was little evidence of him mixing with the rest of the Newcastle squad, and his willingness to speak out, while in many ways admirable, hardly cultivated friendships on Tyneside.

"Why is it that another player can say something and be seen as passionate but if I say something then all of a sudden I've got an opinion?

"When you have been in the game for as long as I have why shouldn't you have an opinion?

"When you go out there to play football that is your job. If everyone sees you running around smiling even when your team is getting their a***s kicked they turn around and say: 'Is he for real? His team is losing and he is running around smiling'."

Cole's later years at Old Trafford were marred by stories about his acrimonious relationship with co-striker Teddy Sheringham. Though the two linked superbly on the pitch, they were rumoured barely to exchange a word off it.

And that surly reputation has followed Cole to Fulham.

He's cheesed off playing up front on his own, we hear. He's sulking after losing the captaincy to Lee Clark, the whispers insist. He's just playing out time on a fat contract, the rumour-mongers say. All the accusations sting Cole, particularly the last. "Anyone who thinks I don't have any desire left should come and have a chat with me. I will tell them about hunger. I will tell them about desire," he said.

"I have been brought up with that. Looking back now I know that I have made certain mistakes in my career but that is because I have wanted to do so well. And I still do.

"Do people think I just go out there every Saturday and don't care about winning? Do they think I don't want Fulham to qualify for Europe or get to a cup final?

"I play to win. If I don't play to win there is no point in me even being involved. I try and win the five-a-side matches in training. If I am not like that then I am not the player that I can be."

Cole, whose wife Shirley and two children live in Manchester, added: "If people think I have lost my hunger they should ask my wife and kids. When I lose I am the worst person ever.

"I go back home to Manchester and they just tell me to go back to London. It takes me a day to get over a bad result because I get so upset when we come out of a game with nothing."

How about the whispers that he is frustrated playing up front on his own?

"It's no good looking at me saying that I am not happy in a 4-5-1 system - that's a load of rubbish. At the end of the day there are 10 other players out there. Go and question them."

And the captaincy issue?

"How can I be upset at Clarky getting the captaincy? He is the club captain.

"We have been friends since our time at Newcastle. The manager asked me to do a job while Clarky was injured but when he came back at Crystal Palace I was glad to give the armband straight back."

Fulham chief Chris Coleman has taken plenty of flak this season with the Londoners, who finished ninth last term, still not free of relegation fears.

But Cole believes the young Welshman is the right man for the job and must have the backing of the Fulham fans. "Maybe it's because we have a young manager that people want to have a go," he said. "People keep saying that he is inexperienced and needs people to come in and help him. But I say give the man a chance.

"This is his second full season. He did fantastic last year when Fulham finished in ninth place. Like with strikers, perhaps he is finding the second season the hardest.

"But I believe next season we will still be in the Premiership and we definitely won't go through as many problems as we have this season.

"As long as we learn from our mistakes it will make us a better team next season."

IT JUST didn't work for me on the international scene. I have been asked this question so many times. But then so many people questioned my ability and said that I couldn't score goals at the highest level.

But for someone who couldn't score at the highest level I played in the Champions League for how many years? And scored against some great players. You are playing against some of the best players in the world in that competition. Top stars from France, from Italy and from South America. And I held my own there.

So when people criticise and say that I could not score goals at the very highest level, I can tell them to have a look at my goals for United in the Champions League. And I'll leave it at that. I don't have any regrets about my career or the decisions I have made. I don't believe I would have achieved what I have done if I was not the person I am.

Some might consider me a difficult personality though I think I am easy-going. But because of my upbringing, when I decide to do something I will do it.

"I look back after 14 years in the game and know that I have always been true to myself.

"I honestly believe that if I had changed from being a headstrong person I would have achieved probably only half the things I have done."

I ENJOYED it at Ewood, regardless of my bust-ups with the manager [Graeme Souness]. When I decided to leave I had so many of the players call me up to say: 'Coley don't go. Stay, stay, he will be gone soon.' When Blackburn beat us 2-0 at Craven Cottage some of their players came up to me and said: 'Told you!'

If I had had such a problem with these people they wouldn't have any time for me. When certain things happen they should stay indoors. But a lot of things have happened with me that should have stayed in-house. People have then made their own judgements and thought: 'He's at it again.'

IT was just total football. Absolute total football. I had a magnificent time there playing for Kevin Keegan. He taught us how to play some great stuff and to enjoy our football.

We were involved in some great 4-3 games. People said that we let goals in but we always provided fantastic entertainment. We always scored goals and we always enjoyed ourselves.

Kevin will be missed. Definitely. He was a real character and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. It's a club with great fans and a great stadium and it was a pleasure to pull on the shirt.

WINNING the Champions League with United is something I will treasure for the rest of my career. I am just so proud of my winner's medal because I never believed I I would ever win it. I am so proud to have won it in such a great team. And when you stop to think about how good the players are at the club now, it means so much more.

They are in a great patch of form. I watched the FA Cup game they won against Southampton last Saturday. They were flying. If they could have played like that against AC Milan in the Champions League I would have been buying my ticket to go to the final.

I'm looking forward to going back to Old Trafford. When you go back to a place like that, where you have achieved so much, it's always nice. You still get on with those players and they still show you respect. I have always loved that about United. I get a great reception from the fans.

As far as Fulham are concerned we have to try and nick three points. Looking at our position in the table, we need to come away with something. The club did well there last season but United are playing extremely well at the moment.

Source Daily Mirror by Darren Lewis
Since 1998
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