Fulham’s top goalscorer is in love with the game again, putting the misery of his fallout with Graeme Souness far behind him.
Cole says his career has been revitalised since making the summer move to Craven Cottage.
“When I came here to do pre-season,” he explains, “I was, ‘Wow’. It was like going back to the good old days. You came, you worked hard, but the laughter was there. You worked hard, but in a happy atmosphere, and after a week, maybe two, I was saying to myself, ‘Yeah, this is what I’ve been missing’.
“These last six months have been unbelievable for me. I love my football again — love it with a passion. And that’s so important, because I’m at a stage of my career where I just want to enjoy it. I look forward to coming to work, look forward to the training, look forward to the games, look forward to the banter. I’m like a child again.”
Cole was hit hard by the fallout with Souness at Blackburn and even conceded giving up the game.
“I’ll be brutally honest with you,” says Cole. “I was at a stage, in my last season at Blackburn, where I wasn’t bothered whether I was in the game or not, because the relationship I had with the guy up there (Souness) was never going to work. In the end, I just didn’t want to be there — not Blackburn, because there was nothing wrong with Blackburn, it’s a lovely club and the fans and the players were great — I mean working under him was a nightmare.
It was a vicious circle. He tried to dominate someone he couldn’t dominate. He couldn’t dominate me. That’s just the way I am. I won’t be dominated by someone I don’t like. So in the end, we just went round and round and it became obvious the best thing for the pair of us was to go our separate ways.”
Cole credits his relationship with Fulham manager Chris Coleman as helping to rekindle his love for the game.
It was strange. I think I spoke to Cookie (Coleman) just twice on the phone before joining, and the first time I met him was after I’d signed. I’d never have believed I’d get on with the manager so well, because past reputations have made me out to be a certain way. So when I did meet Cookie, I sat down with him and said, ‘You know, people have this perception of me’, and he turned around and said, ‘I’m not bothered. It’s for me to make my own opinion of you as a player and a person’. That encouraged me straight away.”