It’s a decade since Andy Cole hung up his boots.
Cole won a lot in his long career.
The retired striker won the Premier League five times with Manchester United. He also collected two FA Cup winner’s medals – and much more – during his 19-year playing career.
But one trophy-less season holds a special place in his heart.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of his hat-trick against Liverpool at a snowy St James’s Park.
Cole, playing alongside Peter Beardsley, ended that campaign with 34 league goals – 41 in all competitions – and newly-promoted Newcastle finished third.
“It was phenomenal,” said Cole, who was this month inducted into the Newcastle United Foundation’s Hall of Fame.
“I look back now, and I’m not sure quite how I did it – 41 goals in a season – myself.
“I’ve got to be brutally honest. I didn’t know what I was going into and the majority of the team didn’t know what they were going into.”
Cole was named the PFA Young Player of the Year for the 1993-94 season and also picked up the league’s golden award.
But I genuinely want to say thank you very much for having me. I know it wasn’t very long, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time.Andy Cole
“To end up getting 41 goals – I think I got 34 in the league that season – is no mean feat for anyone’s first season in the Premier League,” said Cole.
“I enjoyed it, no doubt all the team enjoyed it, and definitely all the fans enjoyed the way Newcastle played football that season.”
Cole, signed from Bristol City by then-manager Kevin Keegan for £1.75million in February 1993, was controversially sold to Man United in January 2005 in a deal which saw Keith Gillespie arrive on Tyneside.
“Without this chapter in my footballing career, I wouldn’t have been able to do the other stuff that I did,” said Cole, now 47.
“This part of my career was massive – it was paramount. Kevin helped by giving me the opportunity and spending that kind of money on an unknown.
“For me to come here and play in a very good team that produced a lot of chances to score goals. Without those guys, I wouldn’t be talking to you.
“I might have got inducted into the Hall of Fame, but without those team-mates, I wouldn’t be in that position.
“I’m honoured, I’m fortunate - all those words can sum it up.
“I never believed I’d be in this position as a kid growing up.”
Cole – who won 15 senior England caps – still enjoys visiting Newcastle, though the welcome hasn’t always been warm.
“Every time I come up here, the have been unbelievable,” said Cole. “Yeah, when you’re playing, it’s different, because, naturally, they want their team to win, but put that aside, and each time I come up I really have a nice time. I never seem to have a problem with anyone.”
Cole feels that he didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to United fans after his sale because of the nature of his departure.
Speaking at the Newcastle United Foundation’s 10 Year Anniversary Dinner, Cole said: “When you’re playing football and doing your job you don’t appreciate how much joy you do give people. Then when you retire you look back and people start saying nice things about you.
“The support and love I’ve had at this place since I’ve come back is phenomenal.
“I never had the opportunity to say goodbye when I left, because it was done in the circumstances that it was. Everyone was upset with me and calling me every name under the sun!
“But I genuinely want to say thank you very much for having me. I know it wasn’t very long, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time.”
Cole was signed by Keegan as the club pushed for promotion to the Premier League.
Reflecting on his time at Newcastle, Cole said: “I think getting promoted with Newcastle and getting to the Premier League was massive.
“Everyone keeps saying I got them up, but the hard work was already done. I got 12 in 12, and then the Premier League was phenomenal. I didn’t know what to expect, my team-mates didn’t know what to expect, but it was a fantastic season for us.
“I’m going to be brutally honest. Without my team-mates, I’m nothing.”