Cole: I owe West Ham
Joe Cole has claimed he is returning to West Ham to repay a debt of gratitude he owes to the club.
Cole, 31, sealed his move from Liverpool to return to West Ham's Chadwell Heath training ground on Friday for the first time since he left the club to join Chelsea back in 2003 - and he is convinced he still has plenty to offer at Premier League level.
Almost a decade may have passed since he last played for the club he has "always loved", but it seems as if little has changed for the player who cut his teeth at the Hammers academy.
"I feel like I owe the club a little bit as well because if it wasn't for West Ham I wouldn't be a footballer," Cole said. "This club's great youth-team coaches taught me the trade and I'm so happy to be back.
"This is a great move for me. Coming back here brings back all the memories of the pitches I learnt how to play on. This is where I learnt my trade and I'm happy to have another chance to be here. I've always loved West Ham and I hope I can give the club a few memorable seasons.
"The training ground has not changed much to look at, but I think Sam has done a great job with the team. A few years ago, the club was in a bad way and Sam has done brilliantly. The timing was right for me to come back and I'm happy. I'm back in London and I'm delighted to be here."
Cole insists his return to West Ham should not be seen as a backwards step in his career, as he is hoping to propel the Hammers towards a possible European finish in the second half of the Premier League season.
"Sam didn't have to sell me the club for me to come back," Cole said. "I've had 18 months at Liverpool where I haven't played much football and Sam wants to play me. I'm going to need games to get back to my best, but I want to play football and come here and help the team to make an impact.
"The first season in the Premier League is always the toughest when you have been promoted and the boys have done brilliant to get 26 points on the board. We would like to match that in the second half of the season and crack on from there."
Cole looks set to make his second West Ham debut in the FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United at Upton Park on Saturday and he admits the enduring affection the Hammers fans have always shown towards him was a big factor in his decision to make an emotional return.
"The big thing in me coming back was the fact that everybody here wants me to do well," he added. "The West Ham fans have always been great to me, whenever I have been back to play at Upton Park and also when I've been in the area visiting family.
"I've come here to play football and what better way to do it than against Manchester United in the FA Cup at Upton Park. I'm just going to go out there and give it my all. We have enough quality and experienced players here to do something special."