by JAKE NUTTING
The Tampa Bay Rowdies have got their man, and it turns out they’ve known they did for quite some time.
The Unused Substitutes has confirmed through multiple sources that former English national team national team veteran Joe Cole has signed a deal with the club. The move to secure the 34-year-old attacker has been in the works for months now, and he could be available for selection for the home match against Rayo OKC on May 14 if his visa and International Transfer Certificate are approved in time.
The contract runs through the 2016 and 2017 North American Soccer League seasons, with the club holding a club option for 2018.
Cole’s signing marks a potentially important moment in the history of the modern era Rowdies, who are seeking to announce themselves as a serious competitor in the market for international high-profile players.
One source told the Unused Substitutes that principal owner Bill Edwards stated his desire to sign a player with a certain cachet that could provide a significant impact for the club both on the field and off late last year and that Cole was a player the technical staff quickly identified to fit that bill.
Known for his technical skill on the ball and versatility in the midfield, Cole will be called upon to help spark Tampa Bay’s attack when he takes the field.
With Cole the Rowdies have added an experienced international who has represented his nation at the 2002, 2006, and 2010 World Cups.
His club pedigree boasts stops at several prestigious clubs in the Premier League. Cole came up through the youth system of West Ham United as one of the most hyped players in England and made his professional debut for the Hammers in 1999 at 17-years-old. He went on to make 150 appearances through five seasons with the club.
After West Ham United’s relegation at the end of the 2002-2003 season, Cole transferred to Chelsea, where had his most productive stretch as an individual and helped the club claim three Premier League titles and three FA Cup trophies. During his seven-season stint with Chelsea, Cole recorded close to 300 appearances, 38 goals, and 43 assists across all competitions.
Liverpool signed Cole on a free transfer ahead of the 2010-2011 season, billing him as marquee signing. Cole struggled to find a groove with the club, though, and was gone after three seasons, one of which was spent on loan to Lille in France.
Cole’s path then led him to a return to West Ham United for a season and a half, Aston Villa, and then most recently Coventry City in League One this past season. In his short stay at Coventry City, Cole improved his fitness level after limited playing time at Aston Villa and worked his way into a regular starting role. Through 22 appearances for Coventry City, Cole tallied two goals and six assists.