Since joining the Blues in 2006, few players have been as consistently brilliant as the England left-back.
Blessed with a tireless engine and a penchant for attacking runs, Cole had to be patient in making the position his own, sharing full-back duties with Wayne Bridge during his first couple of seasons at Stamford Bridge. He did not have to wait long for his first taste of silverware, playing a part in the FA Cup and League Cup wins in the 06/07 season.
Largely unchallenged from 2008 and beyond, Cole began to flourish, scoring his first goal at Upton Park against West Ham, in a 4-0 win. He was also a standout performer for Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final, producing a trademark lung-busting display, before scoring in the shootout that famously ended in tears for another Chelsea stalwart.
2008/09 marked a fantastic year for Cole, turning in 49 appearances in all competitions, while scooping the FA Cup under Guus Hiddink, defeating Everton. As a result of his displays, he was voted Chelsea’s Player’s Player of The Year for that season.
He was part of the side who defeated Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final a year later, securing back-to-back victories in the competition, while becoming the first man in history to win the FA Cup six times (three with Arsenal and three with Chelsea). On a more personal level, it was another year to celebrate for him but for altogether more surprising reasons – he won Chelsea’s Goal of the Season for his effort against Sunderland, magnificently bringing down John Terry’s long ball forward, before turning in leaving then-Sunderland captain Lorik Cana sprawling and then dinking over Marton Fulop.
Of course, it a was league-winning campaign for the Blues, marking his first Double with the club, and along with former Arsenal team-mate Nicolas Anelka, they became the first two players to achieve the feat with two different clubs. It was an injury-hit campaign, fracturing an ankle putting him out for three months of that campaign. He returned on the final day of the season, bagging a goal against Wigan.
On top of his win in 2008/09, he won Chelsea’s Player’s Player of The Year award in 2010/11, owing largely to his part as an ever-present in the league. That season he also earned places in the PFA’s Team of the Year, and UEFA’s 2010 Team of the Year.
2011/12 marked a change for Cole, who for the first time since his arrival found himself genuinely competing for the left-back slot, this time with Ryan Bertrand. He was however instrumental in Chelsea’s famous Champions League win, putting in tremendous displays against Napoli and then defending champions Barcelona, making vital goal-saving clearances against both. He broke his own record by winning his seventh FA Cup medal in the win against Liverpool, before of course featuring in the side that defeated Bayern in that magnificent night in Munich, achieving his first ever European honours.
Cole made his 300th appearance for the Blues against Manchester City in February 2013, but again found himself picking up an injury meaning he would miss the back end of a season. He did regain fitness to help Chelsea pick up another European trophy, playing in against Basel in the semi-finals of the Europa League, staying in the team to help beat Benfica in the dramatic final in Amsterdam.
This season has left Cole on the fringes somewhat, thanks to Jose Mourinho’s preference of Spaniard Cesar Azpilicueta in the left-back position, only managing 21 appearances thus far in the league.
On an international scale, Cole’s Chelsea appearances helped further cement his position as his country’s first choice left-back. He became only the seventh player to collect 100 caps for England, earning his centenary appearance at Wembley against Brazil in 2013. He is the most capped English full-back, breaking Kenny Sansom’s record in 2010 playing against Montenegro. Cole also holds the distinction of being the most capped black Englishman, beating John Barnes’s 79 caps, in the game against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. He also holds the less-desirable record for playing the most England games without scoring for his country, with 107 caps. His consistency for Chelsea easily transferred to the Three Lions, and his England displays during 2010 earned him the England Player of the Year award.
Now 33 and his contract expiring in the summer, who knows where Cole will be playing his football come August. Be it at Chelsea, or be it somewhere else, his tremendous work-rate coupled with fantastic performances in almost every one of Chelsea’s big games over his near-8-year stay means he will always be considered one of the finest Chelsea players to have donned the famous Blue shirt.