For Joe Cole, walking away from Chelsea as a coach is not goodbye but hopefully see you later.
Just prior to the coronavirus lockdown in March, which brought the Premier League and the world of sport to a sudden mid-season halt, Cole decided he needed to leave Stamford Bridge.
The 38-year-old, who left the club as a player in 2010 under Carlo Ancelotti, was operating as a technical academy coach since the start of last year.
Joe Cole has revealed he has chosen to step down from his role working at Chelsea’s academy
The former Chelsea and England midfielder is looking to further his development in the game
His former team-mate Frank Lampard took over the No 1 job from Maurizio Sarri at the start of the season and Cole, seeing his close friend excel domestically and in Europe, had a jolt in the arm to take a leap of faith.
‘Just before lockdown I stepped down from my role at Chelsea,’ he explained.
‘I had a great time there and learned so much. It was really important in my development but I was planning on carrying my work with BT Sport and I was planning on doing study visits around the world with different managers and study visits within the FA.
‘That all got put to bed because of Covid but I’ll pick that up when I can and it’s back to normal.
‘I loved it there. I’m sure one day I’ll return in some capacity but at the moment, for my development as a coach, I felt going round and going to look and listen and keep my ears and eyes open was the best thing for me.’
Lampard, who is preparing his side to face Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, has Cole’s seal of approval having seen in close quarters how he has worked, especially with young players that Cole helped to develop in the academy.
The club are fourth, a five-point gap on nearest top four challengers Manchester United, and having taken over with Chelsea under a transfer embargo, their best player in Eden Hazard sold to Real Madrid and a spate of young players thrust into the side to plus the gaps, Lampard has arguably overachieved in his maiden campaign.
Cole thinks old team-mate Frank Lampard has a realistic shot at silverware in the FA Cup
Young players such as Fikayo Tomori (right) have gone on to establish themselves this season
But Cole, who went on to win six trophies in seven years with Chelsea including back-to-back Premier League titles, warns that the days of giving the club’s young stars a free pass are over. With an FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester City on Sunday, Lampard can still cap off this season with silverware.
‘Expectation changes at a football club. Nothing stays the same,’ Cole added. ‘I think Frank has done fantastic and his staff, and the club because the decision to get Frank was a brave one, so I think they’ve all done great.
‘I believe that going forward now with Chelsea the expectations will have risen, and now Frank’s got an opportunity of getting a trophy, the FA Cup — which is massively important for a club like Chelsea, the tradition going back winning the FA Cup so many times is huge — and getting the top four. So credit to Frank, credit to the players. It’s been a terrific season considering the circumstances.’
Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori are among the young players to have established themselves from the academy. Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour, 19, is the latest to catch the eye from the production line.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a squeeze on finances for many clubs, including those in the Premier League, and with a greater emphasis on producing players, Cole has seen the growing demand for elite-level coaches.
Billy Gilmour (left), who Cole had seen in the academy, is the latest off the production line
Working as a pundit for BT Sport, Cole harbours aspirations of going into management himself
Asked what has changed since he emerged as a 17-year-old at West Ham back in 1998, Cole, who retired in November 2018 and turned to coaching, admits part of the process is ‘drastically’ different.
‘The fundamentals will always stay the same but everything else form the outside of it has changed drastically,’ the BT Sport pundit said.
‘Credit to people who have put these systems in play. I think coaching in this country in general has got better and better as the years have gone by. I feel football has moved on and improved. Like every industry where so much money is thrown at it, everything’s looking for the marginal gains.
‘The way we looked after these lads in the academy was unbelievable. It blew my mind. It really opened my eyes up to the evolution of football and all the different ways of playing – but the different ways of teaching as well because a lot of coaching is actually teaching.
‘You use the fundamentals and techniques that all the great teachers do. I learned so much from the people in the academy building over there. It’s no accident that Chelsea are producing a stream of great players and there’s more to come underneath it.’
The Premier League is back on BT Sport, with Newcastle v Aston Villa and Wolves v Bournemouth on Wednesday 24th June 5:45pm, and Chelsea v Man City on Thursday 25th June at 7:30pm. Watch all 20 BT Sport Premier League games contract free with the BT Sport Monthly pass, just £25 per month
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