Andy Cole is often sighted as one of the most underrated strikers in English football’s illustrious history, and it’s hard to deny that. From the Champions League triumph, to his title winner against Tottenham; Cole has made memories that will last a lifetime in the hearts of Red Devils around the world.
Considering all of the above, it makes Cole’s soap opera of an England career, all that more unfathomable. When you sit down and actually look at Cole’s international and domestic success as two separate entities, it feels like two different players’ careers.
During his legendary career as a forward in the English divisions, the now-45-year-old netted 229 goals in 509 appearances for a host of different clubs. And when you go on to consider that a few of those sides included the likes of Manchester United and Newcastle (who were a force to be reckoned with at the time) you would assume that the guy could stroll into the England starting XI.
Unfortunately that’s not how life works. We as a nation have often gone through a sort of cat and mouse affair with top level strikers, experiencing a boom period in the 90s before a great lull in the early 2000s. Andy fell into the category of “we’ve got so many elite stars we don’t know what to do with them” which is a great shame – Ian Wright, Teddy Sheringham, Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, to name just four.
During the seven years in which he considered himself eligible to play for the national team, Cole was capped just 15 times and only netted once against Albania. Not only that, but he wasn’t even picked for the 1998 World Cup during his absolute prime because of one man – Glenn Hoddle. The comedian of an England manager decided upon not selecting Cole because, and this is a real quote: “He needs seven or eight chances to score one goal”.
“My record speaks for itself,” he says, “and when I have finished it will all be down there in black and white for people to see.” – Andy Cole
But it was the nature of his first four caps that keep Cole in the Three Lions history books. Upon making his debut for the Three Lions against Uruguay under Terry Venables, his next cap didn’t come until an appearance against Italy in 1997.
Andy Cole was a proper striker weren’t he. England had some talent that we never gave a chance didn’t we.
— GreyMCMLXXIX (@GreyMCMLXXIX) January 10, 2017
That in itself is a bit odd, but it becomes all the more baffling when you discover the following two games in which he played for England were under caretaker boss Howard Wilkinson in ’99, and then as a part of Kevin Keegan’s regime a few weeks later. Four entirely different gaffers, at four different times, in a situation that will likely never occur again.
The beauty about football is that debates can often go on for hours and there’s never any concrete resolution. However, in this case, there seems to be one unanimous decision among fans – Andy Cole was severely underused on the international stage.