There are many wonderful memories from the 1998/1999 English Premier League football season – at least for Manchester United fans like myself.
There was the story of David Beckham’s amazing comeback after the ignominy of his 1998 World Cup sending off, Roy Keane’s Classic Captain’s Performance™ against mighty Juventus, Ryan Giggs’ solo goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup (and the subsequent topless celebration), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dramatic last-gasp winner in the Champions League final to complete The Treble, and so, so much more.
So much, that sometimes people forget Andy Cole. He scored 24 goals in 49 matches and forged a partnership with Dwight Yorke that bagged 53 goals in just one season.
I can still remember the goal he scored in the final Premier League game of that season against Tottenham Hotspur. With the score at 1-1, a long ball was lobbed into the Spurs penalty area which seemed too high, but Cole somehow managed to pluck the ball out of the sky with an exquisite first touch while running at full pace. He took a touch, and then calmly lobbed Ian Walker in the Spurs goal to hand United the Premiership with a one point lead over Arsenal.
Almost a decade later, I finally got to meet him, the man so instrumental to the greatest football season I’ve ever experienced. Andy, who since 2000 has asked to be known as Andrew, was here as captain of the Manchester United team at the Masters Football tournament, which features retired Premier League footballers.
Click HERE for the full transcript of the interview with Cole.
“When you retire from football you always want to play at an intense level. I’ve watched the Masters and it’s very intense – tempers get frayed and (the players) still want to win football matches.
“It’s also a case of getting back into the football banter… Actually I haven’t seen many of my teammates from United. The Masters will be my first time seeing Ronny (Johnsen) and Jesper (Blomqvist) since my playing days, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Cole.
(Yorke was also scheduled to play at the tournament, but sadly, his mother passed away.)
Cole retired from football last October after a short, unsuccessful spell at hometown club Nottingham Forrest. After that, he was selected as an England 2018 World Cup bid ambassador and he recently took up a job as Huddersfield Town’s strikers coach.
“I’m constantly busy. You need to keep yourself busy after football or else you’ll go mad,” he said.
Not busy enough for Sir Alex Ferguson, though. According to Cole, Fergie recently warmed up the ol’ hairdryer when they bumped into each other at a hotel recently, asking when Cole was finally going to complete his coaching badges. Cole currently only has a UEFA B license, but he needs to go two levels up to a UEFA Pro if he wants to manage at the top level.
“He told me to stop messing around in no uncertain terms. I’m going to get started on it next month,” said Cole. Looks like the hairdryer still works, though Cole says he hasn’t heard of any former United players getting the blowdry treatment for poor performances at the Masters.
One thing I noticed during the interview was that Cole spoke in a very languid, almost slurring manner, which was a real contrast to his sharp, bustling style on the pitch.
It also made it quite hard to believe that he actually released a rap single, 1999’s Outstanding, which ironically, included lines like: “Sharp like a razor / Speed to amaze ya / Beat ya like / Ali did Joe Fraizer”. The single’s performance on the UK charts were far from outstanding.
I wonder if Didier “Drogbacite” Drogba’s rap album, which has apparently already been recorded, will do better, or even reach the heights of Paul Gascoigne’s UK #2 hit single Fog on the Tyne. But the Drog definitely has the dramatic skills for an MTV already.
But back to Cole. I asked him if there were any Premier League strike partnerships like what he had with Yorke back in the day, and his answer was simple: “No.”
“I think football is played differently now. If someone could have a partnership like me and Dwight had, people would pay a helluva lot of money for that. But it’s difficult to have partnerships like that now because the game has changed,” he said.
Actually, Andrew, they pay a lot more these days, and not even for partnerships.
But apart from that, he’s right, which is quite sad, because that means we won’t be having any glorious moments of football like that which Cole used to conjure with Yorke anytime soon.