by JAKE NUTTING
The Tampa Bay Rowdies may be testing the waters with a well-known name in the world of English soccer — former West Ham United and Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole.
The 34-year-old former English international was in attendance for today’s 1-1 draw between the Rowdies and a Stoke Citty XI at St. George’s Park.
Today was not the first time the 34-year-old took in a Rowdies match this year, though. He was a special VIP guest of the Rowdies for the Suncoast Invitational match up with the Montreal Impact back on February 20.
In the days leading up to that match, the Rowdies front office put the message out to Ralph’s Mob that the supporters group should be ready to put on a good show to impress a VIP that could open doors for the club in the future. We now know Cole was that VIP. He was photographed in the Rowdies owner’s box sitting to next to owner Bill Edwards and COO Lee Cohen.
Cole would undoubtedly be the most-high profile player to sign with the modern era Rowdies. Freddy Adu might have more name recognition in the U.S., but his playing resume pales in comparison to Cole’s. The midfielder appeared in 126 matches for his first club West Ham United from 1998-2003 before moving on to a highly successful run at Chelsea from 2003-2010. During that stint, Cole made close to 200 appearances and Chelsea claimed both the Premier League title and FA Cup three times.
With over 50 caps for the English national team to his name, Cole would also be the most experienced international play for the modern Rowidies. Cole last appeared for England during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Cole is currently under contract with Coventry City FC in the English third division, but his contract only runs until the end of the season in May. If he were to join, it would likely be as a pickup in June between the NASL Spring and Fall Seasons.
After the signing of Scottish center back Neil Collins from Sheffield United last week, the Rowdies have one international roster slot remaining.
The Rowdies declined to comment on this story.