He also played in the top division of English football for Arsenal, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Sunderland, as well as in the Football League for Bristol City, Birmingham City, Burnley and Nottingham Forest. He is the third highest goalscorer in Premier League history, with 187 goals.
Cole has the distinction of being one of the few players in England to have swept all possible honours in the English game, including the PFA Young Player of the Year award, as well as the coveted UEFA Champions League title. Cole was also capped fifteen times for England between 1995 and 2001, scoring once against Albania in a World Cup qualifier.
Cole started his career as a youth player for Arsenal on leaving school in 1988, signing professional in 1989. He made his only league appearance for Arsenal, aged 19, as a substitute against Sheffield United at Highbury during a First Division game on 29 December 1990; Arsenal won 4–1 but Cole did not score. He also made a substitute appearance against Tottenham Hotspur in the Charity Shield in 1991 and almost made an immediate impact, hitting the side netting from outside the area. The following season, he was loaned to Fulham in the Third Division, where he scored three goals in 13 games.
Cole was sold to Second Division Bristol City in a £500,000 deal – at the time he was their most expensive player. Having proved himself as a competent young goalscorer with Bristol City (who began the 1992–93 season in the new Football League Division One following the creation of the Premier League), Cole was quickly one of the hottest prospects in England and his name was regularly linked with Premier League clubs throughout the 1992–93 season.
In February 1993, Division One leaders Newcastle United broke their club record club by paying £1.75 million to sign Cole. He then scored 12 goals in as many league games as the Magpies cruised to the Division One title and won promotion to the Premier League. His 12 goals included two hat-tricks, the first against Barnsley on 7 April, the second on the final day of the season in a 7–1 hammering of Leicester City. He also scored the first of the club's two goals in their 2–0 promotion clinching win over Grimsby Town at Blundell Park on 4 May.
After David Kelly was sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers, manager Kevin Keegan brought in Peter Beardsley as Cole's strike partner for the 1993–94 Premier League campaign.
Cole scored 34 goals in 40 games during Newcastle's first Premier League season as they finished third and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Cole scored a total of 41 goals in all competitions – breaking the club's goalscoring record which had been set by Hughie Gallacher nearly 70 years earlier (Gallacher still holds the record for the highest number of league goals in a season with 36). His first top division goal was in a 1–1 draw against defending league champions Manchester United (who went on to win the double) at Old Trafford on 21 August. This was Newcastle's first goal in the Premier League.
Exactly three months later, he scored all three goals as the Magpies crushed Liverpool 3–0 at home. Another hat-trick followed against Coventry City in late February and with Peter Beardsley almost as lethal as his strike partner, the Magpies finished third in the league and qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time since the 1970s. Cole was subsequently voted PFA Young Player of the Year for that season.
Cole then scored nine Premier League goals in 18 games for Newcastle after the start of the 1994–95 season, and also scored a hat-trick against Royal Antwerp in the UEFA Cup.
In all, Cole hit 68 goals in 84 games for Newcastle giving him a strike rate of 81%. In terms of goals per game for Newcastle, only Hughie Gallacher has a better record. His last goal for the Magpies came in the 1–1 home draw with Ipswich Town on 26 November 1994.
On 10 January 1995, Cole was suddenly sold in a shock deal to Manchester United for a deal worth £7 million – £6 million cash plus £1 million-rated Keith Gillespie going in the opposite direction, setting a new record for the most expensive British transfer.
Despite joining halfway through the 1994–95 season, Cole still managed to score 12 goals in just 18 Premier League games for United. This included his first, the winner in a 1–0 victory over Aston Villa on 4 February at Old Trafford and five in the 9–0 rout of Ipswich Town; making him the first player to score five goals in a Premier League game.
However, he missed two goal chances in the final minutes against West Ham United on the final day of the season as they could only manage a 1–1 draw and the league title went to Blackburn Rovers instead. He was cup-tied for the FA Cup Final a week later. Without him, United lost to Everton 1–0. United were also without the banned Eric Cantona and the injured Andrei Kanchelskis, the club's two other highest scoring players that season.
His first full season in 1995–96 with Manchester United proved to be difficult, as Cole struggled to find his trademark form in a side now built around the much heralded return of Eric Cantona. Though Cole scored in four successive games during the winter, including an important opening goal in United's 2–0 defeat of title rivals Newcastle United on 27 December, Cole was badgered by fans and critics alike across much of the season for only scoring 14 times and missing many chances. However, Cole picked up his form in the business end of the season and scored critical goals including the equaliser in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea to help send United to Wembley again. He then collected his first Premier League title winners medal and scored the second goal in United's 3–0 defeat of Middlesbrough on the final day of the season to help United win the Premier League title for the third time in four years. He also played in their FA Cup final victory to become part of England's first ever side to win the double twice.
Before the 1996–97 season began, Cole had to deal with being offered to Blackburn Rovers as part-exchange in a £12 million deal that would have brought Alan Shearer to Old Trafford but the offer was turned down and Shearer joined Newcastle instead. Despite Alex Ferguson's clear indication to Cole that he was looking for another striker, after the Shearer deal fell through, Cole fought to stay at the club and was handed the number 9 shirt (having previously worn 17). The arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjær – and being the victim of two broken legs suffered after a tackle by Neil Ruddock in a reserve game against Liverpool, restricted Cole's first-team chances further. However, Cole managed to recover by December that year, and still play in 20 Premier League games (10 as a substitute) for the season. Cole then ended the season strongly with several crucial goals in both the league (such as away at title rivals Arsenal), and in the UEFA Champions League (where he scored a goal voted the season's best European goal against Porto) to complete his comeback from injury. Cole then scored the title sealing goal in a landmark 3–1 win for United at Anfield – the scene of his broken legs just half a season earlier – against Roy Evans' "Spice Boys" Liverpool team and thereby aiding United in winning their fourth title in five years, with Cole winning another Premier League title medal.
For the 1997–98 season, the retirement of Eric Cantona saw Cole emerge as first choice striker once again, and he discovered his best form ever for the club, becoming the joint top goalscorer in the Premier League during the course of the season with 18 goals, including a slew of spectacular goals – one of which, a chip against Everton, had the fans' vote as the Manchester United goal of the season. Cole also developed a strong partnership with Teddy Sheringham (despite considerable personal friction between the two), but United finished trophyless for only the second time in nine seasons as they lost to Arsenal in the end. Cole achieved several personal landmarks in this campaign, scoring his first European hat-trick for the club in an away match at Feyenoord, as well as ending the season as runner-up in the PFA Players' Player of the Year award to Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp. Despite this accreditation, and being the leading goalscorer in all competitions that season with 25, Cole was omitted from England's 1998 World Cup squad by then-manager Glenn Hoddle. Cole remained upbeat when interviewed and when asked about his new-found return to success, Cole claimed that he had found freedom in his life after the injuries of the previous season, saying he had great joy with his newborn son, and lived for him and his family in his faith as a Born again Christian. He also claimed the friendship of Ryan Giggs, his roommate on away games, was a major motivating factor through the tough times when fans doubted him at United.
Cole faced competition from new signing Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær during the 1998–99 season but ended up developing an immensely successful partnership with Yorke. Cole and Yorke contributed 53 goals between them and were rated as one of the most feared attacking partnerships in Europe, with the pair scoring against sides like Barcelona away at the Nou Camp, and repeating the form all season with incredible one touch passes and assists that at times seemed to demonstrate a telepathic understanding. Cole played a key role in the side's unique treble of the Premier League title, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Cole scored the winning goal in United's final Premier League game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur, a result which meant United finished one point ahead of rivals Arsenal to win the Premier League title. He also scored United's third and winning goal in their Champions League semi-final second leg against Juventus, sealing their place in the final for the first time in over 30 years. Also in this season, Cole scored his 100th Premier League goal in a top of the table clash against Arsenal at Old Trafford on 17 February; the match ended 1–1.
During United's pre-season tour of Australia in July 1999, Cole was involved in a horror tackle which left 19-year-old Australian defender Simon Colosimo sidelined for six months and requiring a complete knee reconstruction. Before the injury, Colosimo was one of Australia's best young players and was about to make a big money move to Europe, and was never able to complete a career in Europe, despite a handful of appearances for Manchester City.
Cole was United's top scorer again in 1999–2000 with 19 goals in 28 Premier League games. He collected his fourth Premier League title medal in five seasons, and scored over 20 goals in all competitions for the third successive season. Cole scored many goals for United including the only goal of the game in their top of the table clash against their closest rivals Leeds United. He also joined an elite group during this season by scoring his 100th goal for the club in a 2–2 draw against Wimbledon.
Another title followed in 2000–01 when, despite suffering from an injury that restricted his appearances, Cole scored 13 goals in all competitions, including four in the European Cup allowing him at the time to become Manchester United's record goal scorer in European competition of all time.
The following 2001–02 season saw Cole face competition from new signing Ruud van Nistelrooy as well as Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and also Paul Scholes for places up front, with Ferguson adopting a more conservative approach especially in European games by playing Scholes behind Van Nistelrooy with Roy Keane and Juan Sebastian Veron in a 3-man midfield. Despite this, Cole did manage to score 7 goals before leaving for Blackburn after falling behind to the formidable partnership of Van Nistelrooy and Solskjaer, forcing him into a "super sub" role.
Cole made one last appearance for Manchester United in the UEFA Celebration Match six years later, on 13 March 2007, coming on at half time for a friendly game between Manchester United and a European XI, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the European Community and 50 years of Manchester United in the European Cup.
The arrival of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastián Verón counted against Cole's first-team chances in the 2001–02 season, and on 29 December 2001 Cole was sold to Blackburn Rovers for £8 million. Within two months of arriving he had collected a League Cup winners medal, scoring the winning goal for Blackburn in the final against Tottenham Hotspur who were managed by the former England manager and open critic of Cole, Glenn Hoddle. This victory meant that, in the space of seven seasons, Cole had won all four domestic trophies plus a European trophy. Cole ended the season with a total of 18 goals in all competitions, 5 for Manchester United and 13 in just 20 games for Blackburn.
Rovers finished sixth the following season and qualified for the UEFA Cup. That campaign saw Cole reunited with Dwight Yorke, who had signed for Blackburn from Manchester United for £2 million in July 2002.
Cole had a frustrating season in 2003–04 as Rovers slid into the bottom half of the Premier League finishing 15th. Cole netted 11 goals but his relationship with manager Graeme Souness hit rock bottom after Cole reported him to the PFA accusing him of unfair treatment. Cole scored 37 goals in 100 appearances in all competitions for Blackburn
Thirteen years after spending a month on loan at Fulham, Cole returned to Craven Cottage for the 2004–05 season joining them on a one-year contract. He was the club's top scorer and scored one of the goals of the season against Liverpool. Despite this successful period at Fulham he decided to leave the club after only one season as his family wanted to return to the North West.
Cole signed for Manchester City on a free transfer at the beginning of the 2005–06 season, and enjoyed a good start to his career at Eastlands. Stuart Pearce's side's spent most of the season in the top half of the table but Cole's season was ended by injury in March.
Despite signing a new contract with Manchester City only months earlier and leaving Fulham in 2005 to return to the north, Cole signed for south coast club Portsmouth on transfer deadline day (31 August 2006) for an undisclosed fee, reported as £500,000 with the potential to rise to £1 million depending on appearances. He scored his first league goal for his new club in the 2–0 win at home to West Ham on 14 October 2006. However, Cole struggled to break into Harry Redknapp's side and in March 2007 he signed on loan for Birmingham City of the Championship until the end of the season. Cole returned to Portsmouth after five appearances and one goal (against Wolverhampton Wanderers) for Birmingham. He was released on 3 August 2007.
After being released by Portsmouth at the end of the 2006–07 season, Cole signed a one-year contract with Sunderland on a free transfer, reuniting him once more with former Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers strike partner Dwight Yorke, and under the management of former United teammate Roy Keane. After seven games for the club, Cole spent three months on loan at Burnley where he scored 6 goals for the Championship club including a hat-trick against QPR at Loftus Road. Reflecting on his time at Turf Moor, Cole stated, "I went to Burnley and spoke to Owen Coyle and got a great vibe. He brought the best out of me and made me feel a lot younger than my age." Cole was released by Sunderland at the end of the 2007–08 Premier League season.
On 4 July 2008, Cole signed a 12-month deal with Nottingham Forest, his 12th club, and hometown club from childhood. However, on 31 October 2008, Forest confirmed that Cole's contract had been cancelled by mutual consent, after eleven appearances and no goals.
On 11 November 2008, Cole announced his retirement from football, bringing an end to a 19-year career.
Despite first being capped for England in 1995, he had earned only 15 caps by the time he announced his retirement from international football after failing to be selected for the 2002 World Cup squad. He scored one goal for England, in a World Cup qualifying match against Albania in March 2001. He also scored in his single appearance for the England B team.
Glenn Hoddle, in defence of his decision not to select Cole for the World Cup in 1998, accused Cole of needing six or seven chances to score one goal.
Injury just prior to Euro 2000 led to Cole missing out on another major competition for his country.
Cole earned his first four caps under four different managers. He made his debut against Uruguay under Terry Venables in 1995, appeared next against Italy under Glenn Hoddle at the Tournoi de France in 1997, made his third appearance against France under caretaker Howard Wilkinson in 1999 and finally earned his fourth cap against Poland under new manager Kevin Keegan in his first starting appearance a few weeks later.
In August 2009, Cole was hired by his former Manchester United and England teammate, Milton Keynes Dons manager Paul Ince, to coach the club's forwards on an initially temporary basis. However, a week later, Cole agreed to spend at least two days a week working on finishing with the forwards at Huddersfield Town, under his former Newcastle United and Fulham teammate Lee Clark. In December 2010, Cole was back at Manchester United, working at the Carrington training ground while finishing his coaching badges.
Cole's father, Lincoln, emigrated to the UK from Jamaica in 1957 and worked as a coal miner in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, from 1965 to 1987.
Cole married his long-time girlfriend Shirley Dewar in July 2002. Their son, Devante, is also a professional football forward; he joined Fleetwood Town in 2016.
In 2008, Cole was questioned by police after an alleged assault on his wife in their Alderley Edge, Cheshire, home before being released on bail. Six months later, Cole, through his representative law firm, Schillings, won damages in an action against the owners of the Daily Star, for defamation regarding the publication of material concerning the assault allegations and for harms caused against his family by sensationalist reports.
In April 2016, Cole was named in the Panama Papers.
In June 2014, Cole suffered kidney failure after contracting focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.
In April 2017, he underwent a kidney transplant.
In 2000, Cole visited Zimbabwe and returned to set up his own charitable foundation, called the "Andy Cole Children's Foundation", which helped AIDS orphans in the country.Arsenal
FA Charity Shield (1): 1991 (shared)
Football League First Division (1): 1992–93
Premier League (5): 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01
FA Cup (2): 1995–96, 1998–99
FA Charity Shield (1): 1997
UEFA Champions League (1): 1998–99
Football League Cup (1): 2001–02
Premier League Golden Boot: 1993–94
PFA Young Player of the Year: 1993–94
Premier League Player of the Month: November 1997
PFA Premier League Team of the Year: 1999–2000
Neil Ruddock considered Cole to be the player he most enjoyed playing against. In a candid interview with Talksport, he jokingly referred to the incident that resulted in Cole suffering two broken legs in 1997 as "not big, and not clever", adding "but it was great", and that "I didn't mean to break both of his legs if I'm honest, I only meant to break one".
In 2010, Cole wrote in his column in The Independent that he had "loathed" and "pretty much detested" former Manchester United and England teammate Teddy Sheringham "for 15 years", after Sheringham did not offer to shake Cole's hand as Cole was substituted on for Sheringham to make his England debut in a match against Uruguay at Wembley in 1995.