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Cole’s Walk of Life

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 07/06/17, 1:45PM EDT


Former England international relishing role with Rowdies

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – More than a year into his time with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, there appear to be very few places Joe Cole would rather be.

Following in the same footsteps across the Atlantic that were previously trod by the likes of his grandfather’s favorite player, Rodney Marsh, the former England international is relishing his time in Tampa Bay.

“It’s great,” said Cole of his experience. “I love playing, that’s the reason I’ve come out here, and it’s just been great. We’re working on something that will hopefully one day bring Major League Soccer to Tampa Bay, and to build soccer in the USL and build it in this country. To be part of that is great, you really do feel as though you’re in the process of something great in this country.”

His grandfather’s fandom of Queen’s Park Rangers, and of Marsh particularly, was how the Rowdies first appeared on Cole’s radar as a youngster in London. The two former England internationals have become acquaintances since Cole’s move in May last year, too, recently teaming up for a live broadcast for SiriusXM FC.

“He’s a great guy, a London guy like me, so we have a lot in common,” said Cole. “[My granddad] was constantly telling me stories about Rodney Marsh, so we had a good chat.”

Cole is also wielding the type of influence on and off the field for the Rowdies that his predecessors did. His 13 goals and 10 assists for the club since arriving have shown the talents that once performed for Chelsea in the Premier League and at three FIFA World Cups haven’t dimmed much since his heyday. 

At the same time, Cole is greatly enjoying the life that comes from living in downtown St. Petersburg. Family life is full of visits to the pool, and trips to Disney, giving Cole the perfect chance to unwind away from the field.

Add in that Cole’s residence is a short walk from Al Lang Stadium, and the 36-year-old has been able to carry on the customary walk to the game he used to take when he took center stage in the Premier League.

“When I was at Chelsea, I lived in London and I walked to the game, weather-permitting, and I really loved that,” said Cole. “You get a sort of feeling, you pick up the atmosphere as you come along, and you have that time to clear your mind ahead of the game. It’s just something I’ve really enjoyed. Stopping for a coffee along the way, seeing the excitement build, it’s good.”

Cole’s walk on Thursday will arrive at one of the highest-profile games of the USL season, with the national spotlight arriving at Al Lang Stadium for the Rowdies’ clash with FC Cincinnati on ESPNU. The Rowdies are also looking for a turnaround in form, with a seven-game winless streak having upped the pressure a bit to bring a top-quality performance against another playoff contender.

“I think it’s concentration, and making sure we do the simple things really well,” Cole said on turning the team’s form around. “We are in a bad run, and it’s only hard work and concentration that can get us out of that. The guys are all pulling in the right direction.”

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

In the bigger picture, though, Cole and his teammates have their sights set on being in the right position when the USL Cup Playoffs arrive both physically and mentally, and making sure the resurgence the club is taking on the national stage maintains the best traditions of the Rowdies’ name.

“To want to join the Rowdies and come out here and experience the revitalization of it, it’s great,” said Cole. “The Rowdies’ history, it’s a real element that the league needs, a connection between the past, the future and the present, to tie it all together.”

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