5th November 2005
Keen Cole makes up for lost time
Southend winger Mitchell Cole's career reads like an Eastenders script. A talented teenage prodigy at the age of 18, he is close to breaking into the West Ham first team. But his professional dream turns sour - he leaves West Ham due to injury problems and is at a loss as to what to do next with his life.
Cole contemplates giving up football altogether - in fact he does just that for a year, and sits at home, where he puts on nearly a stone in weight. But in the summer of 2004 Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole's father - Mitchell's girlfriend is Joe Cole's sister Charlie - suggests he trains with Grays Athletic, then in the Conference South. The young left winger is quickly offered a contract by Grays and helps the Essex club win promotion to the Conference.
Cole's performances win him rave reviews and in the summer of 2005 League One club Southend come in for the left winger, just as they did with another former Grays player, prolific striker Freddy Eastwood. The dream shows no sign of ending - Cole quickly settles at Southend and with just over a third of the season gone the Essex club are top of the league.
Grays manager Mark Stimson believes Cole, now 19, has the ability to play at the highest level. "Both Freddy Eastwood and Mitchell Cole are Premier League class," Stimson told BBC Sport. "It will be interesting to see where they are when 24 or 25 years old, when they have physically developed. "Mitchell's ability and positional play - there is no-one like him outside the top flight. You only have to ask Sven-Goran Eriksson how difficult it is to find left-footed players. "There are not that many people who can run past people in the way Mitchell does. "It will take him longer to establish himself than Freddy because as a winger you have to be supplied with the ball. "And it will take him a year to get used to the pace of that league and don't forget he has gone up three levels. "But next year you will see the best of him. He is very, very hungry and wants to put the work in."
Cole has helped Southend to the top of the table. If Stimson is full of praise for Cole, the winger is similarly complimentary about Grays and his former manager. "The year with Grays I just enjoyed my football so much," Cole told BBC Sport. "They were just a great bunch of lads. "Stimmo was like more one of the lads. He would join in the training and he would always find a way to talk to you one-on-one." Cole's renewed enthusiasm for football continues to burn brightly under his new manager Steve Tilson at Southend. "He really reminds me of Stimmo. I think that's why I've found it easy to adjust after joining Southend. "Steve Tilson and Stimmo played together for eight years and they've got similar ideas. "The gaffer joins in training. It makes it easier to enjoy training rather than having to try and impress someone."
After losing a year of his career Cole's hunger to progress is very evident.
"I became a father 10 days ago and it's made me think about providing for Charlie and my baby daughter Rhys. "Everybody has the ambition to play at the highest level and I think I have the ability to get there if I can back my confidence. "When I make a mistake in training, my head drops and I have to try and cut that out. "Mark Stimson has also been looking at using people who specialise in breathing techniques, to help you recover your breath more quickly. "That's something I have always struggled with. I'm going to speak to Stimmo and try and get in contact with them.
Article by BBC On Line
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