Cole: I wish I'd enjoyed my career more
Andy Cole says the coronavirus lockdown has allowed him to look back on what he achieved throughout his long and storied career, something he wishes he'd had more time to do as a player.
The former Manchester United and England forward won numerous trophies at Old Trafford and is still the third-highest Premier League scorer of all time, netting 187 goals in the top-flight between 1993 and 2008, 93 of them for the Reds.
However, in Monday’s MUTV Group Chat, Cole conceded that the constant need to look ahead and chase more honours, especially during his seven-year spell at United, prevented him from enjoying life as a professional as much as he should have.
“Just looking back, reflecting, you won something, you moved on,” Andy told host Stewart Gardner and our panel of former players. “What are we going to do next season?
“So yes, looking back, I wish I’d enjoyed it and spoke about it a little bit more. But I was so determined to move on to the next season, try my best and try to improve as an individual.
“I want to become a better person, a better player. So moving on wasn’t a problem for me. I never looked at my trophies, half of my shirts I’ve given to my kids. I’ve always been very focused, so having this time to reflect is a little bit different.”
One of the career moments Cole was asked to look back on in the group call was his move from United to Blackburn Rovers in 2001.
Andy revealed that the transfer was motivated by his wish to break into the England squad for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea the following summer.
It was a decision that received Sir Alex Ferguson’s reluctant blessing and led to the Nottingham-born striker completing his haul of major domestic trophies.
“I always believed I was good enough to play in one major tournament and I was trying to force my way into the World Cup squad that year," he said.
“I went to see the gaffer and he’d say: ‘Get out, I’m not talking to you!’ I was saying to the boss: ‘I need to move on, I need to play games’ and he would just say I’m not selling you.
“In the end, I think I pestered him so much, he said: ‘I know what you’re like, I know you want to play games and not sit on the bench, so we’ll come to a deal. I’ll move you on but you can stay for as long as you want.’
“He wasn’t forcing me out the door, which was brilliant. But I needed to play more games than the gaffer was prepared to give me at that stage.
“I can say now I should have stayed at United to see my career out, but, on the flip side, I’ve gone away and ended up winning the trophy I didn’t win [at United]: the League Cup.”
Ultimately, Cole failed to add to his 15 international caps after leaving Old Trafford, even though he went on to play top-flight football for a further seven seasons, at Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Sunderland.
Our Treble-winning hero was used to being overlooked at England level by various managers, at this stage, a problem he first came across when Terry Venables was in charge of the national side.
“I remember when I was at Newcastle," he recalled. "I was absolutely flying. It was ridiculous the goals I was getting.
“[The FA’s] David Davies phoned Kevin Keegan and explained why Terry wasn’t putting me in the England squad. Kevin’s invited me to sit down in his office and to listen to the phone-call.
“The [reasons] they were talking about why I wasn’t getting in the England squad, when I was scoring all these goals for Newcastle, were nonsense. So I always said my England career is going to be tough.
“When you’re scoring all these goals but the manager doesn’t want to pick you, what else are you supposed to do? And that’s when he came out with the quote: ‘I’m not preparing to give out caps like confetti’.
“Well, I’m doing my job for Newcastle, scoring goals and you’re not going to give me a cap, if it’s like confetti, well I’m going to struggle. And that’s what my England career was like after that, every manager.
“My best one was probably [caretaker manager] Howard Wilkinson, because he believed I was good enough to play at that level. I know I was good enough to play at that level, because I was doing it every week for Manchester United in Champions League football – and we were playing against better teams!”
We'll have a new episode of MUTV Group Chat at 16:00 BST, every day from Monday to Friday.