The much-hyped Messiah of English football, the new Gascoigne and the worst kept secret in football, Joe Cole made a slow start to his much-heralded career.
Harry Redknapp was undoubtedly behind this as he tried to protect his young player by giving him some substitute appearances during 1998/99 and a few starts during 1999/2000.
Scored his first goal for the Hammers in a Worthington Cup tie against Birmingham City. It was a tap-in but it was a last minute strike which won the tie.
His skill, touch and vision are there for all to see although he perhaps lacks a bit in aggression and strength. His 1999/2000 season was ended prematurely by a broken leg sustained after a horror tackle from Derby County's Rory Delap.
Signed a lucrative new contract to keep him at Upton Park for years to come and started the 2000/01 season with some spectacular performances in midfield. Loves to do the unexpected and has no qualms about dribbling around or taking-on the opposition.
Has represented the England Under-21 squad and had an outside chance of making the Euro 2000 squad but his broken leg put pay to that.
Made Howard Wilkinson's full squad for England's World Cup qualifier against Finland but took no part in the action.
England manager Sven Goran Eriksson is also a fan of Cole's ability and included him in his first squad for the friendly against in February 2001. Made his England debut in a 4-0 defeat against Mexico three months later.
Continued his progress and remained a favourite with Eriksson. It looked as though he had blown his chances of a place in the World Cup squad, however, after a topsy-turvey display against Italy.
After his trickery created the opening for Robbie Fowler to score, his experience then gifted the ball to Italy for them to equalise.
Still managed to make the squad, and came on as a substitute in the opening group game against Sweden, which finished as a 1-1 draw.
By that time he had made 110 appearances for West Ham, scoring eight goals.