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Cole: Coaching in China is my pinnacle

30 Jul 2019

West Ham legend reflects on mentoring young players at Asia Trophy, 10 years after playing in it

Ten years on from playing in China for West Ham United in the Premier League Asia Trophy, Carlton Cole says representing the club in the same country this month is the highlight of his coaching journey so far.

Cole made 216 Premier League appearances for West Ham from 2006 to 2015, during which time he visited Beijing on the last occasion the Asia Trophy was hosted in mainland China.

He joined the club as an ambassador two years ago after retiring from playing and for the last six months he has developed his coaching skills with the guidance of Under-16 coach Gerard Prenderville, who travelled with him to Nanjing and Shanghai.

The former striker helped to mentor coaches, PE teachers and players at the Under-15 Chinese Super League Cup and Mixed Under-12 Premier Skills Cup, with four teams representing each Premier League club at the Asia Trophy to celebrate the Premier League's commitment to developing youth football in China.

The winners, including the team representing West Ham in the Premier Skills Cup, earned a trip to the United Kingdom to play and train with PL academies.

"I came out here 10 years ago, and I saw how much the football's improved, and now they're trying to invest in the grassroots football," Cole said. "I'm really happy that I'm out here, collaborating with the Premier League to bring a better future for Chinese football."

'Massive learning curve'

The Asia Trophy also gave Cole the opportunity to work with the Premier League and coaches from Manchester City, Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, something which opened his eyes to the work behind the scenes that made the tournament and the initiatives alongside it possible.

"I've only been coaching for six months now and I've enjoyed every minute of it," Cole added. "This has probably been the pinnacle of it, getting to come out here, working with other coaches, seeing their point of view of the game.

"It's been a massive learning curve for me. Just knowing how much time and effort that the Premier League put in to the younger generation, it's been really good for me to be a part of it and to experience it in a different way."

The League and its clubs have been contributing to Chinese football since 2009, when Premier Skills launched in the country and has since engaged with more than one million young people through developing community coaches and referees.

For the last six years, the Chinese Super League has worked with the Premier League to share best practice which it can use to develop its own Academy system.

"The Premier League is doing wonders over here and around the world as well, because it's the most-watched league in the world," Cole said. "It's perfect for any club in China to be involved with the Premier League."

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