Cole: Carroll's best years away

December 16, 2012

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."