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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Former Chelsea, England midfielder Joe Cole joins Tampa Bay Rowdies

Joe Cole came through the youth system at West Ham and returned there for a second spell later in his career.

Joe Cole has signed with the North American Soccer League (NASL) Tampa Bay Rowdies, the club announced on Wednesday.

The deal is pending international transfer card approval and will run through the end of the 2017 NASL season, with an option for 2018. Contract details were not disclosed as per league policy.

In March, a source told ESPN FC that ex-West Ham, Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder Cole had agreed a deal to join the Rowdies after being offered a one-year deal with an option for another 12 months.

"Joe is a fantastic player, a player I know well from my time in England," said Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell. "His experience not just on the field, but off it, is invaluable for us. One of the biggest things I took from my conversations with Joe was his love of the game and how badly he wants to win matches. The fire is burning inside him to win games and achieve great things with the Rowdies."

Cole is currently at League One side Coventry on a permanent contract until the end of the season after leaving Aston Villa on a free transfer in January, following a successful loan spell at the Ricoh Arena.

The 34-year-old, who won three Premier League titles with Chelsea, has made 22 league appearances so far this campaign, scoring twice and laying on six assists.

"Joe's going to join Tampa Bay and it might happen pretty quickly if he can get international clearance etc," his current manager at Coventry City, Tony Mowbray, said in the Coventry Telegraph earlier on Wednesday.

"I would have liked to have kept Joe who I think has proven his fitness and worth to the team. He's a fantastic character around our building -- no airs and graces, not looking for favours or extra days off.

"He's a top guy and he has shown his football ability. It's come probably a little bit late in the day that I have felt as if I could trust him to play in the centre of midfield alongside John Fleck and not worry too much about having a combative Vincelot-type character breaking it up and winning headers.

"I think Joe can help us control football matches but he's made his decision for his family, I think, and we wish him well because he's been fantastic for our dressing room and this football club."

On whether Cole could return to Coventry next season, Mowbray said: "He's indicated to me that when their season finishes in October that he might come back here because there's a window of opportunity for him to come back on loan.

"I said that would be great but it will be dependent on how many loans we have got at that time, of course, so let's see what happens.

"It could be October to February. Let's wait and see how he does, if he stays fit."

The 34-year old midfielder has won the FA Cup three times, the League Cup twice, the FA Community Shield twice and once finished as runner-up in the UEFA Champions League, in addition to his three Premier League titles with Chelsea.

"Joe is a fantastic player, a player I know well from my time in England," said Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell. "His experience not just on the field, but off it, is invaluable for us. One of the biggest things I took from my conversations with Joe was his love of the game and how badly he wants to win matches. The fire is burning inside him to win games and achieve great things with the Rowdies."

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