STARS ON PA­RADE IN TRIB­UTE MATCH

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY - By Stu­art Ham­monds

MITCHELL COLE would have looked down on Broad­hall Way a proud man on Tues­day night, as some of Bri­tish football’s top names gave the tragic ex-Steve­nage winger a send-off to re­mem­ber.

Cole died sud­denly in Novem­ber last year, aged 27, be­fore a game of five-a-side. The heart con­di­tion that hin­dered his ca­reer from his teens at West Ham to forc­ing his re­tire­ment at Ox­ford in 2011, hy­per­trophic car­diomy­opa­thy, was to blame.

His third child, daugh­ter Leni Boo, was born a week later and she, sis­ter Rhys, 7, and brother Ge­orgie, 5, wore strips with ‘DADDY’ on in lead­ing the teams out for his ben­e­fit game.

Hold­ing their hands was un­cle Joe Cole, brother of the three-times FA Tro­phy win­ner’s wife Charly and bet­ter known as the Ham­mers and Eng­land mid­fielder.

Up­ton Park man­ager Sam Al­lardyce also sent star striker Andy Car­roll, Matt Jarvis, Mark No­ble, James Collins and cap­tain Kevin Nolan, and Mitchell’s for­mer Grays team­mate Gary Hooper, the Celtic striker, turned out.

The game fin­ished 7-4 to the Ham­mers-in­spired Cole XI over a Boro team, with on­loan Liver­pool hit­man Car­roll play­ing along with the 2,300strong crowd’s ban­ter over an ef­fort that cleared the stand be­hind the goal.“You’ll never play for Boro,” they chanted.

It was that kind of night. The football came sec­ond, al­though Charlton’s Lawrie Wil­son did score while the crowd ap­plauded dur­ing the 21st-minute – Cole’s num­ber when win­ning the Con­fer­ence ti­tle with Boro in 2009-10.

Ash­ley Bayes, the funlov­ing ex-keeper, led the fans’ Span­dau Ballet ‘Gold’ trib­utes to Cole by beat­ing their huge drum af­ter half­time.

“What a turn-out from the fans and the top play­ers,” said Cole XI man­ager Mark Stim­son, who took the winger to both Grays and Boro.

“Mitch would have been look­ing down with a smile, know­ing he wouldn’t have been out of place in that com­pany him­self.”

OR­GAN­ISER: Joe Cole

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