In the summer of 2010, 29-year-old Joe Cole joined Liverpool, then under the previous (and disastrous) ownership of Hicks & Gillett, on a free transfer. Of course, free only refers to the transfer fee, not the £90,000 per week the club was shelling out for Cole.
It wasn’t long before the Hodgepocalypse was in full swing that fall, and with it, wide-scale protests to remove Hicks & Gillett and their mismanagement of the club. These were dark times, indeed.
By October, Fenway Sports Group stepped in to rescue the flailing club. They were not impressed by what they saw, apparently including Joe Cole’s wage bill.
“I joined Liverpool for the owners, then new owners took over and the noises were that they wanted me off the wage bill,” Cole said in an interview. “The noises were coming through my agent that they wanted me out.
“When you sign for a new club and five minutes later they want you out, you’re facing an uphill battle straight away.
“I always did my best at Liverpool and personally I think that if you look at the games I played in, I didn’t do anything wrong – I just didn’t play enough.
“Then my body was starting to break down, so I’d have four weeks off here, six weeks off there, then I’d get fit and it was just a spiral. If I had been managed better, I could have done better.”
All told, Cole, who had over 300 appearances for West Ham and Chelsea, scoring 38 for his previous two clubs, would only make 26 appearances for the Reds in 2 years (plus a 1 year loan spell at Lille).
Cole’s injury woes and diminishing productivity could be easily predicted for a player approaching 30 (not all former England internationals can be James Milner), and it’s no doubt a major reason why the new ownership were not keen to keep the ageing player around, especially for those wages.
His comments are an interesting, first-hand account of the earliest days of FSG’s ownership of Liverpool Football Club.
The timing of the comments, with Liverpool in their best position to consistently compete for the highest honors for a long, long time, is also noteworthy. Whether Cole intended it or not, it shows just how far this club has come since the Bad Old Days.
From Roy Hodgson to Jurgen Klopp. From Joe Cole to James Milner. From a sixth place finish (on 58 points!), to at worst a second place finish (already on 79 points with 6 to go). From losing to Braga in the Round of 16 in the Europa League to being favorites against Porto in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. From Dirk Kuyt finishing as top goalscorer (15 in all comps) to having Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah each on 20 goals already, and Roberto Firmino “only” chipping in with 14.
Clearly Cole wanted his Liverpool move to work out. Sadly, his move was a few years too late, and precisely at the worst possible timing. There were larger forces at play, ones that would completely transform the club into the fantastic squad we see today.