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Saturday, 29 December, 2001, 21:59 GMT
Cole's fresh challenge
Andy Cole in action for Manchester United
Cole chased consistency while at Man Utd
BBC Sport Online profiles striker Andy Cole as he switches from Old Trafford to Ewood Park.

Andy Cole's latest multi-million pound move looks to have generated a lot less angst than his last one.

His decision to join Blackburn Rovers for a fee believed to be in the region of 8m had an air of inevitability about it.

Cole, pushed down the pecking order at Manchester United by the arrival of Ruud van Nistelrooy, accepted it was time to leave Old Trafford.

  Andy Cole Factfile
1989: Signs for Arsenal; only one league app
1992: Scores on England U-21 debut
Sold to Bristol C for 500,000
1992-93: 17 goals in 37 games; sold to N'castle for 1.75m
12 goals in 12 games as N'castle win Div 1
1993-94: Club record 41 goals; PFA Young Player of Year
1994-95: 14 goals in 17 matches but hindered by injury
Joins Man U for British record 7m
1996: 11 goals in 34 games as Utd win double
1997: Hit by injury
1998: 26 goals but left out of World Cup squad
1999: 24 goals as Utd win Premiership, FA Cup and Champions Lg
2000: Misses Euro 2000 injured
Dec 29, 2001: Joins Blackburn
And United's fans have seemingly accepted it, too.

Contrast that to the shock on Tyneside when Kevin Keegan shipped the Toon Army's 'Goal King Cole' to Manchester for 7m seven years ago.

Since then, pundits and supporters alike have been divided over his talents and qualities.

Cole established himself as one of England's brightest striking talents under Keegan.

But although he has served Sir Alex Ferguson well, the feeling is his career failed to reach the predicted heights.

For a time the goals dried up and international opportunities were few and far between.

It was not until Keegan took over as England boss that he found himself a regular place in the squad.

Even now, after winning 15 caps, Cole still only has one international goal to his name.

Disappointment

His move to Blackburn may yet keep his England career alive and kicking in the build-up to next summer's World Cup finals in Korea and Japan.

If it doesn't however, it will not be the first time that Cole, now aged 30, has had to deal with disappointment.

The future looked bright for the Nottingham-born player when he signed for Arsenal in 1989.

Manchester United and England striker Andy Cole shares a smile with England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
Cole: Keen to be part of Eriksson's plans
But, after just one league appearance and a loan spell at Fulham, he was sold to Bristol City for 500,000 in 1992.

Cole quickly established himself at Ashton Gate, with 17 goals in 37 appearances in the 1992-93 season.

He caught the eye of Keegan, who paid a then club record 1.75m as he sought to take the Magpies into the Premiership.

The move was an instant success as Newcastle soared to the First Division title and then made an immediate impact in the top flight.

Cole formed a prolific partnership with Peter Beardsley and scored a club record 41 goals as Newcastle secured a place in Europe.

He won the European Golden Boot and the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 1994.

Out of the blue

The following season, he netted 14 times in his first 17 games and also scored on his England 'B' debut against Ireland despite being hampered by a shin injury.

Newcastle were now genuine Premiership challengers and the news that he was to join Manchester United came out of the blue.

Ferguson later admitted that he was surprised Newcastle agreed to sell him but the promise of 6m in cash plus winger Keith Gillespie proved too tempting.

However the move was not the instant success everyone expected.

Andy Cole and Blackburn manager Graeme Souness
Cole is teaming up with Blackburn boss Souness
The goals came only in bursts as his consistency deserted him and Cole's ability to finish under pressure came under question.

But Ferguson stuck with him and was rewarded with 26 and 24-goal returns in successive seasons in 1998 and 1999.

His partnership with Dwight Yorke proved particularly fruitful in the 1999 Treble-winning season and despite continually being overlooked by England, Cole's career looked back on track.

His hat-trick against Anderlecht last year took him level with Denis Law's club goalscoring record in Europe and in February this year he was handed a new four-year deal.

This season has been more of a struggle, however. Cole has found first-team opportunities limited due to the form of van Nistelrooy.

Cole was in favour with Sven-Goran Eriksson at the start of the Swede's England reign but has not started the last four games.

With the World Cup finals looming - and having been overlooked for France 98 - he has decided his chances may be better if playing regularly elsewhere.

See also:

11 Oct 01 |  Champions League
Euro goal king Cole
27 Dec 01 |  Man Utd
Cole's Blackburn link
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