The Tampa Bay Rowdies have created a splash in the football world with the signing of Joe Cole. The addition of the three-time (English) Premier League Champion and two-time World Cup participant for England. Cole’s pedigree was well-established by the time he left West Ham United in 2003 to join ambitious rival Chelsea. Cole left his boyhood club in a respectable fashion and unlike FRank Lampard remained a favorite of Hammers fans. Those fans were rewarded when Cole returned to the club in 2013 and scored a goal in his first match in his second-stint with the club against Manchester United in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. That match was televised live in the United States on FOX affiliates over-the-air and netted almost a million viewers.
Cole is one of the biggest signings in the history of NASL – and arguably the biggest when you consider the footprint of the Premier League and the clubs he featured for in Chelsea, Liverpool and West Ham in the United States as compared to where other NASL signings have come from. Understand, nobody is arguing that Cole is a better player than Raul or Marcos Senna, two world-class players signed by the New York Cosmos in 2015 and 2013 respectively – but it is entirely possible Cole is a better known player than any previously signed by an NASL team. That’s due to the intense following the Premier League enjoys in the United States, a following that now exceeds that of Major League Soccer.
Often times when players are signed to NASL or MLS clubs, the local media and the leagues have to educate fans as to the career of the player and “how good he is.” It’s a rare instance when a player signs for a club in North America and he’s a known commodity for the vast majority of fans who watch the league or the club he has signed for – in that regard Cole joins a very short list that includes David Beckham, Freddie Ljungberg, Didier Drogba and Steven Gerrard as player whose profile is well-established to fans without a need to fluff up a resume to “sell” the signing.
Cole scored a critical goal in a May 2010 clash between Chelsea and Manchester United which decided the Premier League title for 2009-10 season. At the time the ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes telecast of the match which had 750,000 viewers was the most watched telecast ever for a European club game on American television. It remained the highest rated match on cable TV until April 30, 2012 when a Manchester City v Manchester United game eclipsed it with well over a million viewers on ESPN.
One of the most technically gifted players that England has produced in the last twenty years, Cole will enhance an already potent Rowdies attack.
Cole scored this spectacular goal versus Sweden in the 2006 World Cup, a goal that allowed England to win its group.