Andrew Cole has what it takes to become a top manager according to his Fulham boss Chris Coleman.
Even Coleman admits ex-Manchester United and Newcastle striker Cole, who captains Fulham against the Magpies at his old St James’ Park stamping ground in the Barclays Premiership on Sunday, came to Craven Cottage with a difficult reputation.
He was given a free transfer by Blackburn after just 27 Premiership goals in three seasons – compared to 43 for Newcastle and 93 for Manchester United – and a series of bust-ups with then Ewood Park manager Graeme Souness who has since moved to Tyneside.
“But we’ve never had a problem with Coley,” said Coleman, who at 34 is the youngest manager in the Premiership.
“He’s come here with the tag of a trouble-maker and, yes, he does have a touch of arrogance. But to be a captain or a manager you have to be a bit opinionated, and he’s got that.
“Different people have different tastes, and it is well-documented that he had a number of fall-outs with Graeme. But that’s nothing to do with me.
“I can only go on what I’ve seen since he’s been with the club, and he’s easy to work with and great with the lads – not just his team-mates but the younger players as well. He’s always talking to them, giving them the benefit of his advice – and they look up to him.
“We made him captain against Spurs the other week, and he relished it. He’ll be captain again up at Newcastle, where they still idolise him. He’ll enjoy that, although not everybody does because you have to have a special personality to be a captain.”
Coleman is in no doubt that Cole has just those necessary credentials.
“He likes being in the thick of it. He likes the extra responsibility of captain, speaks his mind and is prepared to upset one or two,” said the manager.
“But he is also very positive, and there’s no reason why he couldn’t become a manager if he wanted to.
“I don’t know if that is what he wants, but five years ago it didn’t even occur to me to do it. I just wanted to keep playing. Now I’m enjoying this job. Sure, it has its frustrations – but you have to put up with those.”
Management would put Cole rare company with other black stars who have progressed from playing days to the hot seat – such as Keith Curle (Mansfield), Keith Alexander (Lincoln City) and Leroy Rosenior, the former Fulham striker now in charge at Torquay.
Ex-England midfielder Carlton Palmer also had a stint at Stockport, and Jean Tigana was Coleman’s predecessor at Craven Cottage.
Should Cole choose that route it will be one more appointment to redress an obvious imbalance.
Coleman, whose playing career was ended by serious leg injuries suffered in a car crash, is only a few months older than Cole who turned 33 last month and is battling to make amends to Fulham for a four-match suspension he received after being sent off at West Brom.
He aid: “I let myself down getting sent off and missing games. Now it is more important than ever to get back among the goals for Fulham.”
He has still managed five goals in eight starts, including the clincher in last week’s 2-0 home win over Tottenham when he first wore the captain’s armband for Fulham who had also taken him on loan from Arsenal back in 1991.