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Saturday, 29 December, 2001, 21:59 GMT
Cole's fresh challenge
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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