JOE COLE: Shocked spectators by turning out for a non-league club at the weekend
Image: Russ Evans Photography/SWNS
Former England and Premier League star Joe Cole shocked spectators by turning out for a non-league club at the weekend.
The West Ham, Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder who made more than 550 senior appearances over his career, Cole played 45 minutes for minnows Belstone FC, who sit in the 10th tier of English football.
The 39-year-old was persuaded to join by his friend Aaron Lincoln, who manages Belstone and was able to convince the TV pundit to play for his side based in Radlett, Hertfordshire.
For his first run-out, the former international footballer played the first half of a cup match in Harefield, which Belstone won 2-1 thanks to goals from Chelsea Academy player Perry Dicker.
Following this performance, the club hope Cole, who played in three World Cups and one European Championship, will make another appearance when they face Sandridge Rovers at home in the next round on Saturday.
Cole, who won three Premier League titles and two FA Cups with Chelsea and featured in the Champions League, played his usual central attacking midfield role in Harefield and almost got on the scoresheet when a curling shot hit the outside of the post.
Belstone groundsman said the former England footballer's arrival has given the place a "real buzz".
Glynne Cherrington, a founder member of Belstone FC and former vice-chairman, said: "Joe is an old friend of our manager who took over towards the middle of last season.
"It was wonderful to see his level of play and it was a joy for both teams. It's a great story for the lad who was marking Joe in the game."
After the match, Cole chatted with his teammates and the opposition as well as posing for pictures.
Mr Cherrington added: "It's a great experience for our players. We have a lot of young players. It has given us all a real buzz after lockdown and Joe has fitted in really well. Hopefully, that appearance will be the first of many."
In recent weeks, Cole has been appearing as a television pundit for BT Sport and he is the most high profile player to turn out for Belstone.
Former Wales and Watford footballer Malcolm Allen has also turned out for Belstone in the Herts County Cup and FA Cup, while Leyton Orient footballer James Brophy played regularly for Belstone's Sunday league team before turning professional.
Cole began his career in east London with West Ham where he was touted as one of the hottest young prospects in English football.
After the Hammers were relegated in 2003, Cole moved to west London for his most successful period of his career at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho.
He then moved Liverpool before being loaned to Lille in France, then returning for a second spell at West Ham.
During his career, Cole earned 56 England caps, scoring 10 goals including a stunning volley against Sweden at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Words: Nathan Louis and Chris Dyer, South West News Service
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