Forgotten winger Joe Cole began the New Year with a return to former club West Ham United, and immediately donned claret and blue for the Hammers’ third round tie against Manchester United at the weekend, writes Emma Webb.

Hope and floory | Joe Cole may have been turfed out on loan, but it's Hammer time as the midfielder bids to kickstart his career. (Image | The Mirror)

Hope and floory | Joe Cole may have been turfed out on loan, but it’s Hammer time as the midfielder bids to kick-start his career. (Image | The Mirror)

One of the many great success stories to emerge from the West Ham academy, Cole made his name early on as a schoolboy for England Under-16s.

He formed part of the FA Youth Cup-winning side of 1999, and made his first team debut in the same year at 17-years-old.

Appointed captain at 21 by Glenn Roeder, Cole made 126 appearances for West Ham before moving to Chelsea in 2003.

Relegation for West Ham that year meant almost all of the club’s biggest and brightest rejected contract offers, and when Cole departed for the bright lights of Stamford Bridge and the UEFA Champions League, he was in good company.

Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and, begrudgingly, Paolo Di Canio, all fled a future of Championship football at Upton Park in favour of transfers abroad or to top six clubs, largely Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Chelsea.

The 31-year-old dived straight into European football with the Blues and enjoyed a string of successes and momentous goals. After two years at the club he signed a four-year contract extension and was present in the squad that won the Premier League title in 2005, FA Cup in 2007 and reached the Champions League final a year later.

Following a succession of injuries and rather intermittent appearances, Cole was sold to Liverpool in 2010 and continued to enjoy European football as well as earning a five-figure salary.

However, there was an undeniable sense of awkwardness and inconsistency to his career with the Reds that had not yet been witnessed previously. Cole was subsequently loaned to Lille in August 2011, but failed to start for the French side until October.

After a reasonably successful spell in France, in which he made 31 appearances and scored four times, Cole returned to Liverpool but suffered an early injury.

There was no metamorphosis in Cole’s chemistry with Liverpool and no real repeat of his often noteworthy efforts and triumphs at West Ham and Chelsea. Having completed another 16 months with the Reds, Cole was welcomed “home” to east London last week.

Cole-fired Irons | Cole is congratulated by his team-mates after setting up both goals against Manchester United. (Image | London24)

Cole-fired Irons | Cole is congratulated by his team-mates after setting up both goals against Manchester United. (Image | London24)

Not all supporters and pundits were in favour of the decision, with some feeling that he has little left to offer the Premier League after so many successful years at the top.

Yet it appeared as though Cole had never been away after the reception he received at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.

Indeed, Sam Allardyce was certainly confident enough in his decision to include the former England man in the starting line-up without proper training.

Assisting both goals against United, he ran the league leaders ragged before being substituted midway through the second half.

This was enough to win round many of the doubters, with a majority having been swayed to such an extent that they even disputed the decision to take him off.

Due to remain with the Hammers for 18 months, Cole will no doubt have a big role to play in the upcoming replay at Old Trafford, rescheduled Boxing Day fixture at The Emirates and Premier League clashes with QPR and Spurs.

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