The big interview: Andy Cole – "Playing with Dwight Yorke was like meeting a special woman and falling in love"

Andy Cole

Why didn't he make it at Arsenal? What made his relationship with Dwight Yorke special? And why did he report Graeme Souness to the PFA? Your questions answered in February 2010...

It’s the school holidays, so Andrew Cole brings his 15-year-old son Devante along to meet FourFourTwo. A striker with Manchester City, the youngster watches and listens as we put your questions to his dad, who retired from playing in November 2008.

That’s after the pair have walked through the centre of Manchester, turning heads as they go. “That’s Andy Cole,” one punter shouts. “He used to score goals for Man United.”

Cole is happy to sign autographs, though strictly speaking, he’s also the former Arsenal, Fulham, Bristol City, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Fulham, Birmingham City, Sunderland, Burnley and Nottingham Forest striker – and he played for England at every level.

Over to you…

You grew up in Nottingham. Were you a Forest fan? Did you ever get down to the City Ground to watch the European champions?
Kevin Godfrey, London
My mates loved football, but we never watched Forest. Being black, not a chance I would go and watch a game in case someone called me a black this or black that. We played football in the park, but we never watched it. I remember Forest winning the European Cups. The players came past our house on a bus with the trophy. I followed the bus and ended up lost in an area I didn’t know. I never ever thought that I’d win that trophy which players like Trevor Francis, Tony Woodcock and Peter Shilton held up.

You were at Forest as a kid. Is it true Brian Clough once introduced you as “the one who got away”?
Michael Clarke, Huddersfield
He did. I’ve got a huge respect for what he achieved as a manager with Forest. When I was later an apprentice at Arsenal, I would clean the away dressing rooms. When Arsenal played Forest, Clough would see me, plant a big kiss on my cheek and say, “Ah, young man, this is the one from Nottingham who got away.”

Is it true that your childhood hero was Cyrille Regis? Should you meet your heroes?
Alan Stone, Coventry
Cyrille was a pioneer. He took so much abuse, so that people like me could play without problems. He was a tank, strong as an ox with a powerful strike. I loved watching him on television scoring great goals; loved the way the commentator said: “Regis!” He always had respect for himself, Cyrille. I’ve told him that too. It was an honour to meet him. I was glad I met Cyrille, but not another hero, George Weah. What a player, yet when he came to Man City he was a letdown as a person. People may say the same about me, but he was cold and dismissive.

Who was better – Bristol City’s Polish magician Jacki Dziekanowski or Eric Cantona?
David Painter, Bristol
I have to say Eric, but Jacki really surprised me. Skill-wise, he was miles better than anyone at that level. You’ve made me smile, mentioning Jacki’s name.

Why didn’t you make it at Arsenal?
Terry Shaw, Hornchurch
Gorgeous George. George Graham pulled me into his office one day and said: “You think you’re the bees’ knees don’t you?” I was 15, but I wasn’t having him taking the piss and came back with, “No. And I’m not having you tell me what I am.” He just shouted, “Out!” and pointed to the door. Their problem was that they knew I had something and could play. And I knew it too. A lot of my mates were playing first team and I wasn’t. I used to watch Perry Groves and Martin Hayes in the Arsenal first team and I thought I was as good and should be given a chance. I wasn’t, so I moved on.

When on loan from Arsenal at Fulham, how did you react when chairman Jimmy Hill told you that you’d never make it as a footballer?
Karen Hammond, Milton Keynes
He said: “You think you’re a bit of a player, don’t you, whereas I don’t think you’re ever going to be a player.” “That’s your opinion,” I replied. “You’re entitled to it.” Then I walked out. I never spoke to him for years until he came up to me when I was at Manchester United and said “Remember that chat we had? I was wrong, wasn’t I?” I didn’t tell Hill that I used people like him and George Graham to spur me on.

You were Newcastle United’s record signing. Did Kevin Keegan really call you Adrian when he tried to sign you?
Michael McHale, Windsor
He did. I was playing for Bristol City, in the days before mobile phones, when I came outside to see a note on the window of my car from my team-mate Russell Osman – it said: “Coley, give me a call.” “Kevin Keegan wants to phone you,” said Russell. I went home and awaited the call. “Hello, Adrian,” Keegan said. “I think you have got the wrong person, because I’m Andrew,” I replied.

“Ah, sorry. Anyway, we’d like you to come up as we’re interested in signing you. Is there any possibility that you can get up to Newcastle tomorrow?” I said: “I can’t come tomorrow because I have to finish my laundry. I can come the day after, though.” He was a bit taken aback, but I did my laundry and went the day after.

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A mad Newcastle fan got a tattoo of you on his leg just before you signed for Man United. Did he ever get in touch, asking for his money back? Seriously, though, what was it like to be in a football-mad city like Newcastle?
Matt Wilding, Crouch End
He never got in touch, but I’m sure he regretted it. It was so big that even laser treatment would have taken a long time. I enjoyed it at Newcastle, but it was difficult playing there. I was a young man and struggled to deal with the level of adoration. I just wanted to play football, go home and go out with my mates.

When I went out, some punters would say, “Well done”. That was fine. Others wanted to hold court with you. I could be having a meal with my missus and people would come up and want to get involved in the conversation. It did my fruit in. I loved my football at Newcastle, but I felt trapped. And the more goals I scored, the worse it got. From the milkman to the bloke in the paper shop, everyone wanted to talk about football, football, football.

How did you feel when Manchester United allegedly tried to sell you to Blackburn in a part-exchange deal with Alan Shearer?
Adam Jones, Hazel Grove
I’ve never heard that before. United went for Shearer, but he didn’t want to come to Old Trafford. And the gaffer went for Patrick Kluivert in 1998, and if he’d signed then I’m sure I would have been on my way. But he didn’t want to come either, so we got Dwight Yorke. Then we won the Treble.