Mitchell Cole was signed by Southend United in July 2005 for £45,000 from Grays Athletic. He fitted into Steve Tilson’s promising side from the start as a fleet footed left winger. In August scored his first Southend goal against local rivals Colchester United in a 3-1 triumph at Roots Hall. He played in 32 League One games that season which culminated in a last day title clinching victory over BristolCity.
The following season was less successful for Mitchell managing only five appearances. His lack of first team opportunities saw him loaned out to NorthamptonTown. He left Roots Hall at the end of the season joining then Conference side Stevenage Borough. He was to be a huge success at Broadhall Way, during his stay Boro would win the FA Trophy twice and gain promotion to the Football League. He was also capped 14 times for the England C international team.
He signed for League Two side Oxford United for the 2010/11 season but after just a handful of games he was tragically diagnosed with the heart muscle disease Cardiomyopathy. Mitchell retired from professional football in February 2011 but still turned out for a variety of non-league clubs including Stotfold, HitchinTown, BiggleswadeTown and ArleseyTown.
When the world watched in horror at Fabrice Muamba’s on pitch heart attack, the shocking incident resonated loudly for Cole and he decided to turn his back on football for good for the sake of his health.
Waking up on December 1st 2012 came with the terrible news that 27 year old Mitchell Cole had died overnight just weeks before becoming a father for the third time with his wife Charly.
While a number of his former clubs and team mates paid their own tributes, I remember clearly what a sombre mood enveloped Roots Hall at the next home game after his death. In the 14th minute (his shirt number at Southend) of the game against Bradford City, the home support struck up a song in memory of Mitchell Cole. His name was chanted for a full fourteen minutes. It was truly emotive stuff.
Fast forward six months and a benefit match arranged for Mitchell Cole was announced by Stevenage. Attending the match just seemed like the decent thing to do, gate money to be split in support of his young family and the Cardiomyopathy charity. I am glad I went, it was a privilege to attend and remember this talented young player who had lit up Roots Hall in that championship winning season. Stevenage hosted the game with great dignity and class and credit must also be given to the West Ham United players who played the first half despite still being “in season” in the Premier League.
The match itself was a feast of goals, the West Ham contingent dominating the first half with some classy play and terrific goals. The home crowd were in good humour welcoming back some old favourites. For me it was great to see a number of ex Shrimpers on the field including Kevin Maher, Mark Beard, Stuart Thurgood and particularly Alan McCormack. The Swindon captain putting the disappointment of a play-off defeat the previous day to turn out for his former team mate. It was somehow symbolic of a classy occasion.
There could be an argument had in some quarters over some of his former clubs failing to organise a memorial game, but I guess having to arrange a game such as this at all is just such a terrible shame. God Bless you Mitch.
Mitchell Cole Benefit Match
Tuesday May 7th 2013
Stevenage XI (2) 4 (Beardsley 5, Wilson 22, Hayles 55, Griffin 79)
Mitchell Cole XI (6) 7 (Noble 15, Jarvis 20,39, Nolan 21, Collins 24, Carroll 38, Battersby 71)
Attendance: 2,306 (at the Lamex Stadium, Stevenage F.C.)
1.Ashley Bayes; 2. Mark Beard; 3. John Nutter; 4. Joel Byron; 5. Peter Vincenti; 6. Mark Roberts ©; 7.Lawrie Wilson; 8. Dino Maamria; 9. Jack Midson; 10. Chris Beardsley; 11. Stacy Long.
12. Gary Mills (for 2, 46 mins); Jon Nurse (for 8, 46 mins); 15. Barry Hayles (for 11, 46 mins); 16. Tim Sills (for 9, 46 mins); 17. Charlie Griffin (for 10, 46 mins); 28. Chris Day (for 1, 46 mins)
Mitchell Cole XI
1. Alan Julien; 2. Barry Fuller; 3. Adam Miller; 4. Kevin Nolan; 5. James Collins; 6. Kevin Maher; 7. Matt Jarvis; 8. Mark Noble; 9. Andy Carroll; 10. Joe Cole ©; 11. John Martin.
12. Alan McCormack (for 6, 46 mins); 14. Stuart Lewis (for 7, 46 mins); 15. Stuart Thurgood (for 4, 46 mins); 16. Martin Carthy (for 3, 68 mins); 17. Leroy Griffiths (for 5, 46 mins); 18. Gary Hooper (for 9, 46 mins); 19. Paul Hakim (for 11, 68 mins); 20. Mark Arber (for 2, 68 mins); 22. Craig Dobson (for 8, 46 mins); 25. Tony Battersby (for 10, 46 mins); 28. Danny Potter (for 1, 46 mins).