Carlton Cole's nomadic existence is finally over and the West Ham striker is determined to repay manager, Alan Curbishley – starting in tonight's FA Cup third-round replay against Manchester City.
Cole found his path blocked at Chelsea by the arrival of signings like Didier Drogba, and loan moves to Wolves, Charlton and Aston Villa did not work out. Even his early days at Upton Park brought little more than frustration for the former England Under-21 as he was restricted to a fringe role.
But injuries to Dean Ashton, Bobby Zamora and Craig Bellamy during the first half of this season, finally gave Cole the chance to lay roots in the first team.
He may have accrued more yellow cards than goals this season – seven to four – but Cole has worked tirelessly up front for West Ham, often on his own in front of a five-man midfield.
Tonight at Eastlands, Cole is likely to continue his burgeoning partnership with Ashton. The two are not naturally suited together, but began to show signs of a decent understanding in last Saturday's 2-1 win over Fulham.
"This is the first time ever I've had 15 games back to back in my whole career. Curbs has given me the opportunity to do so. I'm so happy right now and I couldn't be in a better place," Cole said. "Everyone needs a manager who will stick by them through thick and thin, and usually players do find that a manager like Curbs is like that.
"Curbs was saying to me after I missed a chance against Fulham: 'Don't forget what you've done. I know you're disappointed, but you can't let that affect you. What you've done for the last three months has been good'.
"I took that with a bit of pride. Deano linked up well against Fulham. It's not been like that in past games, but we were linking up. Right now it's exciting times for us and hopefully we can progress."