Cole: Carroll’s best years away

Jens Keller will coach Schalke at least until the end of the
season after replacing the sacked Huub Stevens on Saturday.

Keller, whose only previous Bundesliga coaching experience came
in an ill-fated two-month spell in charge of Stuttgart early in the
2010/11 season, was at work today preparing the side for their
DFB-Pokal tie with Mainz on Tuesday night after being called in to
replace Stevens.

The Dutch coach was fired after a run of six games without a win
left the Royal Blues seventh in the table going into the second
half of the season.

Keller, who moves up from the position of under-17 coach,
inherits a side who, despite their recent league woes, have reached
the last 16 of the Champions League in style, beating Arsenal to
top spot in their group, and who are nonetheless only five points
adrift of the top three.

“We are definitely planning with Jens Keller until the end of
the season,” club chairman Clemens Tonnies told Sport1
television.

Tonnies explained how the decision to dismiss Stevens, voted by
the club’s fans as their coach of the century recently, had to be
taken due to a recent dip in form.

“We had to react,” he said. “Huub Stevens is a great guy and he
sacrificed his personal interests for the good of the team.

“He has admitted that he was no longer getting through to the
team.

“I don’t know exactly what has happened, but after the
Leverkusen game, some kind of change took place.”

The final straw was yesterday’s 3-1 defeat to Freiburg which saw
the club drop to their lowest position of the season, and out of
the qualifying berths for European football next season.

Had Schalke won that game, Stevens would still be in his job
now, revealed Tonnies.

“Of course you don’t like to sack a coach just before
Christmas,” he said. “Had we won the Freiburg game, then we would
probably have waited.”

Stevens led the club to their last major trophy – the UEFA Cup
in 1997.

He also won the DFB-Pokal in 2001 and 2002, returning to the
club for a second spell in charge in September 2011 and leading
them to a third-place finish behind Borussia Dortmund and Bayern
Munich last season.

With 20 points from the first nine games of the season, Schalke
were leading the challenge to Bayern for the title this season.

However, a slump which saw them pick up just five points in the
last eight games has seen them fall out of the hunt for the title
and out of the top six, which has cost Stevens his job for the
second time in Gelsenkirchen.

Carroll is currently on a season-long loan at Upton Park from
Liverpool, who paid ?35million for his services in January last
year.

The former Newcastle forward struggled for form at Anfield and
has scored only once since moving to West Ham.

The 23-year-old was keeping Cole on the bench when fit but is
now sidelined with a knee ligament injury.

Cole has replaced Carroll in the side and performed well since
with the ex-Chelsea striker believing he has developed into a
well-educated front man.

Carroll has nine England caps but Cole reckons he is still
learning and will continue to improve in the coming years.

“With Andy he’s a brilliant player, I knew he was a brilliant
player before he came here,” he said.

“He just needs the right break and once he gets going – I know
he’s only 23 at the moment – but the funny thing about the striker
role, or the one we play, is that it takes a long time to
learn.

“For Andy to have that skill so young is a real blessing for him
because I had to mould myself into that player.

“But he has it naturally, so he just needs to get a few more
games. You’ll see the best of Andy Carroll when he’s 29 or 30, but
right now he’s still learning his trade.”

Cole himself is now 29 and does not think he has finished his
footballing education, despite making his first-team debut for
Chelsea over 11 years ago.

“You start to learn the game a little bit more, situate yourself
in parts of the pitch where you need to be, and impose yourself on
certain players that you need to impose yourself on,” he said.

“That’s what I’ve learned. I’m still learning. It doesn’t happen
overnight.

“Andy’s going to learn how to impose himself in the proper
way.

“I’m not saying I’m better than him or he’s better than me but
you’ve still got to learn your trade. He’s got great assets. I’ve
got good assets but you’ve got to know how to use it as well.”

Cole could have left West Ham when they were relegated at the
end of the 2010/11 season but took a pay-cut to stay at Upton Park
and helped the club secure an immediate return to the top
flight.

Carroll came into the club with a massive reputation to
accompany the high price tag at the start of the current season but
Cole believes in his own ability.

He said: “You need someone to push you and obviously Andy
Carroll is a fantastic player and I need to show what I could do as
well and he’s doing the same thing showing what he can do and now
I’m pushing him.

“People just think it’s one-sided, it’s not just one-sided; in
training I’m doing what I have to do, he’s doing what he has to do
and although he might get the first pick, it doesn’t matter – in
training we’re trying to improve ourselves and it does pay
off.”